Why VoIP has become such a major player for businesses

By Nathan Hill-Haimes 

VoIP does more than increase savings by lowering costs though. Here’s why so many businesses are ditching their analogue lines in favour of VoIP.

VoIP, also known as Internet telephony or ‘voice over IP’, is a way of making phone calls without using a traditional analogue phone line. It stands for ‘Voice over Internet Protocol’ and, as the name may suggest, it’s the system of making a phone call over the Internet rather than using a landline or mobile network. This system works by using voice signals and turning them into digital signals, then using your broadband line to send them as data – essentially the same concept of speaking to someone in another location, but via the Internet. So if it’s such a similar idea, just why is VoIP becoming such a big player for business across the world?

There are many benefits of using VoIP. It’s cheaper than normal phone lines once it has been set up, and could even mean that you pay nothing at all when you make a phone call – though this depends on the distance and which country you're calling. In some cases, you can spend hours on a telephone conference for free!

VoIP does more than increase savings by lowering costs though. Here’s why so many businesses are ditching their analogue lines in favour of VoIP:

Access via a smartphone

No longer is it a requirement to be in the office to connect to your phone system. You can receive calls to your business or DDI on your smartphone. You can access the office directory and make and receive calls as if you were in the office via the VoIP system app installed on your mobile.

You can access VoIP via a smartphone through one of two ways. Firstly, you can use an app that allows you to make calls such as Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Facebook messenger and many more. This is one of the easiest ways to use VoIP. If the person you are calling has the app and an access to the Internet then it's free and easy to use.

You can also use VoIP on your smartphone from your landline provider. You can make calls that use the minutes from your plan, which is a benefit if you have certain deals such as cheap international calling. Landline providers such as BT and TalkTalk both have popular services.

Improve and upgrade functionality

For as little as £3 per month per user you could replace your existing business phone system and get a new VoIP system. The features of a VoIP system allow you to have voicemail, call waiting, hunt groups, all easily managed via an online portal e.g. Broadcloud.

Access on your computer

Make and receive voice and video calls as if you were in the office from your laptop, iPad, tablet or home PC. A VoIP system exists wherever you work and gives you all of the functions you may need remotely. It is also easy to send and receive faxes too. Calling a landline or mobile will be routed through your office minutes contract.

Your number follows you wherever you go

Now you can get your call routed to your desk, your mobile or the office you choose to work from wherever that may be. Calls are intelligently sent to your available location. Now you don't miss any important calls or return to the office to a ton of voicemails.

Integrate other office systems with your VoIP system

CRM, desktop support, email, all link into your VoIP system so it is much easier to access contacts and respond to the important issues that you are faced with during the working day.

So what will you need to make VoIP work for you? It depends on the method of VoIP that you’re going to use. Firstly you will need a broadband connection, preferably a fibre optic one is best as they are more reliable. You’ll ideally want an unlimited plan so you will be able to have the freedom to talk as long as you want to. To get the best VoIP experience you will need a full FTTP or an Ethernet connection, which are available with some business broadband providers. Search for a business broadband VoIP connection here.

If you want to use a VoIP system you will need to purchase the licenses from a VoIP provider and, if you don’t already have one, a compatible phone. If the phone plugs into an Ethernet network then make sure that your router is compatible too.

To use VoIP with your computer it's probably a good start to have a laptop or desktop computer that is able to connect to the Internet. You will also need a working set of headphones or speakers and a microphone. You may consider getting a headset for the highest quality, but it’s not essential – as long as they can hear you, you’ll be off to a good start. For most providers you will have no option but to keep your landline, as you will need line rental to receive broadband.

VoIP is taking the business world by storm due to the financial savings that it can make against the costs of normal landlines, as well as the higher quality calls that can be made and the consistency of the service when lots of other people in the office are also on the phone. Slow Internet will mean low quality calls, but generally business Internet is improving and if you have fibrotic, you will be fine. In some cases, you will be able to keep your phone number – it depends on the provider if they can swap it over. In some cases, you won't even need a number. The cost also depends on your setup. App to app is mostly free, and those provided by a business will come with a monthly cost.

If businesses keep taking up VoIP plans at such a rapid rate, it’s likely analogue phone lines could soon be a thing of the past. If your business has not yet begun making the switch to VoIP, now is the time to upgrade and make sure you and your business doesn’t get left behind.

With $87.3 million in FCC funding, GeoLinks plans broadband expansion

California-based fixed wireless provider details plans for extending rural broadband access into underserved and unserved markets

GeoLinks, a California-based rural broadband provider, walked away from the U.S. Federal Communication Commission’s Connect America Fund auction with $87.3 million to expand its coverage area in its home state and next door in Nevada. GeoLinks was the biggest winner in California and the fifth biggest in the country.

The award is part of the FCC’s funding of $1.488 billion over 10 years to 103 service providers taking on the mandate to connected an additional 713,176 homes and business in 45 states. Per the terms of the funding, service providers receiving aid have to reach 40% of locations in a state within three years of funding authorization and construction must increase 20% each year with the goal of finishing in year six.

Skyler Ditchfield, CEO of GeoLinks, told RCR Wireless News via email that the company is “very pleased with the win. It really solidifies our business plans to continue to densify California. California is such a big state, people don’t realize how much of it is severely lacking broadband access. That includes major anchor institutions like libraries, schools, healthcare, first responder locations and more. These places are beyond the reach of most existing networks and rely on very old, slow and expensive copper services if any.”

GeoLinks, as it builds out its network, will look for opportunities to rapidly deploy by making batch deals for infrastructure siting with these anchor institutions. Ditchfield explained. He also noted the need to invest in long distance backhaul.

“We have backbone network running near some of these areas and in some areas we are not close at all…These areas are so remote the nearest fiber junctions are 100-plus miles away. So we will be building long backhauls via multi-gigabit fixed wireless. There isn’t anything in place in these areas for distribution so nearly 100% of the work will be greenfield.”

On the batch deals with anchor institutions, Ditchfield said, “We are hoping for a warm reception from them and residents alike as the more private land we can get quick and easy access to the faster we can deploy and at higher potential speeds of access. The operational costs over time of these networks are one of the big issues in these rural areas because the homes are so few and far between. This is where we really hope to find good allies in the land owners that want to work with us for quick and easy deployments of network backbone infrastructure.”

This round of funding is just one prong of the FCC’s rural broadband and cellular strategy. The Mobility Fund II auction is designed to allocated $4.53 billion to expand LTE coverage in rural markets and the Connect America Fund will shell out $9 billion over six years for rural buildout in areas served by major carriers.

Call us today for a GeoLinks Quote!

FCC and Carriers Moving Away from Copper Land Lines

Posted by Lisa MacGillivray

Over the past decade, both commercial and residential areas have been transforming the ways in which they communicate. For example, did you know that 80% of residential homes have moved away from landline telephone connections? People have been quick to adapt to new innovations in technology in terms of how they communicate at home, but not everyone has been as quick when it comes to businesses. Many organizations still operate through copper phone lines, even though more efficient and capable technologies exist. Communication is the most important thing that a business can do, and by not updating the ways in which they communicate, they can fall behind and end up facing communication issues in the long run.

As businesses are increasingly looking to IT departments to improve productivity and control costs, they are recognizing the many advantages of utilizing high-capacity wireless links to replace fiber or aging copper-based leased lines, both in terms of cost and network performance. Put simply, companies can (and should) use wireless links to provide fiber-like performance at a significant savings in costs as compared to copper leased lines.

While your company doesn't have to worry about your copper lines being dug up out of the ground today, those who continue to stay on copper will eventually fall out of the majority when it comes to communication. As with any new innovation or technology, those who lag behind tend to find adapting more challenging once they inevitably make the transition. When it comes to wireless network solutions, and the benefits that they offer, companies should plan on making the transition sooner rather than later. These benefits of a wireless network solution include:

  • Versatility

  • Scalability

  • Rapid Deployment

  • Easy Expansion

  • Proven Cost Savings

While the benefits of leaving copper lines behind and upgrading to a wireless network solution are great by themselves, going wireless also offers various application as well, showing that this transition fits well with any company. These applications include:

  • Using a wireless network to eliminate recurring telecom leased-line costs

  • Extending fiber networks with wireless extensions

  • Deploying a wireless backup network to ensure business continuity

The key to successfully moving away from copper phones actually begins with simply starting the conversation and consideration right away. Again, while you may not need to make the technology update today or even tomorrow, your company will need to transition eventually, and sooner is always better than later.

Here are the three steps you need to take when considering moving away from copper phone lines:

Review your business and prioritize

This is a very important first-step in this process that you should do before anything else. Take stock of your contracts for existing services and begin identifying areas that could be ready for a technology update. Take a look at how long these services have been in place, the costs that they are incurring, and any other factors that may signal it is ready to upgrade (difficult to use/encountering steady issues is a common signal). Once you have a solid view on which areas of your business may need new innovations, prioritize them. When you create this hierarchy, chances are your copper lines will be at the top, as communicating is the most important thing your company does.

Create a strategy

This can be as simple as a "napkin idea." If you aren't familiar with the phrase, think of it as having an idea or plan that you outline on a napkin at a restaurant. This may not be the final, most refined version of your plan (the one that you outline out with your entire organization), but it is a step towards that. This step basically helps you get your ideas on paper and shows that your company is serious about moving away from copper. Once you complete the third step, this strategy will be fine-tuned and adhered to.

Find a trusted partner

This is where your company finds a trusted communications partner to help you through this transition. Choose a partner who improves operations by getting information to those who need it when they need it, and who can help you through each step of this technological transition.

With a technologal innovation like this that directly impacts the ways in which your company communicates, it is never too early to start preparing. 

Sangoma Announces Transformative Acquisition of Digium

Sangoma Technologies Corporation (STC), a trusted leader in delivering Unified Communications solutions for SMBs, Enterprises, OEMs, and Service Providers, both on-premises and in the cloud, has entered into a definitive agreement on August 23, 2018 to acquire all of the outstanding shares of Digium, Inc. The deal is expected to close on or about August 31, 2018, subject to customary closing conditions.

Digium is the creator of Asterisk, the most widely used open source communication software in the world, along with Sangoma's FreePBX. The company offers a comprehensive product portfolio including Digium's cloud-based UCaaS (Unified Communication as a Service) platform, the Switchvox premise-based phone system, a complete range of IP phones, and a full suite of Asterisk software and connectivity products. Founded in 1999, Digium is a true pioneer in the communications market, launching the open source segment of telecom, and is one of the industry's best known, most respected brands. It is headquartered in Huntsville, Alabama, is privately held and venture-backed, with over 40% of sales in recurring services revenue to a huge customer base around the world.

Reaching a new milestone in scale

"Sangoma and Digium have a long history of working together, while also competing in the marketplace, and have gotten to know each other very well over the years. Our relationship and mutual respect allows us both to know that the strategic fit between the two businesses really is excellent", said Bill Wignall, President and CEO of Sangoma. Wignall continued, "This transaction will add very meaningful sales, create market leadership in our segment, increase recurring revenue materially, and allow us to nicely leverage our complementary businesses. During a time of industry consolidation, this transformative merger is another bold step for us in implementing our strategy to scale up and increase shareholder value, by augmenting our organic growth with complementary M&A opportunities. To the new staff that will be joining us, I'd like to welcome you to the growing Sangoma family. To our Digium customers and partners around the globe, I'd like to assure you that everyone here at Sangoma remains committed to you, to the Digium products you rely upon, and to further contributing to your success. And of course, to the Asterisk community, I would like to reassure you that Sangoma recognizes the value of Asterisk and is committed to keeping it open source. We will continue to invest in its development and to seek input from the broad base of developers that has led to its outstanding success."

The acquisition, Sangoma's seventh in seven years, provides the combined company with several strategic advantages, including: increased scale via significantly higher sales, expanded recurring revenue percentage, stronger gross margins, market leadership in our category, a more complete product portfolio, a larger team of excellent employees during a time when competition for talent is high, a much wider network of complementary channel partners around the world, and a larger base of enterprise and SMB customers. After closing, the merged company will have a combined workforce of over 300 employees. 

"I created Asterisk and Digium to be disruptive in the communications industry", said Mark Spencer, Founder and Chairman of Digium. Spencer continued, "I am really proud that it has grown under its current ownership and management to a very successful point, and it is now time to take it to the next stage as part of a larger, public company. Given the involvement of both companies in the history of Asterisk dating back to its creation in 1999, Sangoma is the natural home for the Asterisk project. For many years both companies have had teams working to improve Asterisk and make it more accessible. I believe Sangoma's commitments should reassure the Asterisk community that Sangoma is dedicated to the project. I look forward to seeing the results of tighter collaboration between those teams, and the benefits to the community, now that they will be part of a single company."

Transaction Details

Under the terms of the agreement, Sangoma expects to pay a total purchase price of US$28 million on a debt-free and cash-free basis, subject to customary working capital adjustments. The purchase price consists of US$24.3 million in cash and 3,943,025 Sangoma common shares (representing US$3.7 million based on a ten (10) day volume weighted average price of $1.2214 per common share). Digium generated approximately US$30 million in revenue in its fiscal year ended December 31, 2017, with consolidated assets (net of cash) of approximately US$11 million, no debt and a net loss of approximately US$4 million. Further, for the most recently completed quarter ending June 30, 2018, Digium is operating at about EBITDA breakeven.

The cash portion of the consideration will be funded through a combination of cash on hand and, in order to minimize dilution, a new credit facility of approximately $21 million from Sangoma's existing Canadian Tier 1 bank, bringing Sangoma's total credit facilities to about $28 million, of which approximately $25 million will be outstanding at Closing. The new credit facility will be drawn in US dollars, be repaid over 7 years and is expected to have an interest rate of 6.0% to 6.5% per annum at closing.

Transaction Advisors

INFOR Financial Inc. acted as the exclusive financial advisor to Sangoma in connection with the transaction.

Conference Call Information

Management will discuss this planned acquisition more fully on a conference call at 8:30 am EDT today, Friday, August 24, 2018. The dial-in number for the call is 1-800-319-4610 (International 1-604-638-5340) and investors are requested to dial in 5 to 10 minutes before the scheduled start time and ask to join the Sangoma call.

About Sangoma Technologies Corporation

Sangoma Technologies is a trusted leader in delivering Unified Communications solutions for SMBs, Enterprises, OEMs, Carriers and service providers. Sangoma's globally, scalable offerings include both on-premises and cloud-based phone systems, telephony services and industry leading Voice-Over-IP solutions, which together provide seamless connectivity between traditional infrastructure and new technologies.

Sangoma's products and services are used in leading PBX, IVR, contact center, carrier networks and data-communication applications worldwide. Businesses can achieve enhanced levels of collaboration, productivity and ROI with Sangoma. Everything Connects, Connect with Sangoma!

Founded in 1984, Sangoma Technologies Corporation is publicly traded on the TSX Venture Exchange (STC). Additional information on Sangoma can be found by visiting https://www.sangoma.com.

About Digium

Digium(R), Inc. provides Asterisk(R) software, telephony hardware, and on-premises and hosted Switchvox business phone systems that deliver enterprise-class Unified Communications (UC) and UC as a Service (UCaaS) solutions at an affordable price. Digium is the creator, primary developer and sponsor of the Asterisk project; the world's most widely used open source communications software. Asterisk turns an ordinary computer into a feature-rich communications server. A community of more than 80,000 developers and users worldwide uses Asterisk to create VoIP communication solutions in more than 170 countries. Since 1999, Digium has empowered developers to create innovative communications solutions based on open standards and open source software, providing an alternative to proprietary phone systems. Digium Switchvox Cloud and other cloud-based products and services are offered through Digium Cloud Services, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Digium, Inc. Digium's business communications products are sold through a worldwide network of reseller partners. More information is available at www.digium.com and www.asterisk.org.

Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements, including statements regarding the future success of our business, development strategies and future opportunities.

Forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements concerning estimates of future revenue, expected expenditures, expected future production and cash flows, and other statements which are not historical facts. When used in this document, the words such as "could", "plan", "estimate", "expect", "intend", "may", "potential", "should" and similar expressions indicate forward-looking statements.

Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements, as there can be no assurance that the plans, intentions or expectations upon which they are based will occur. By their nature, forward-looking statements are based on the opinions and estimates of management on the date that the statements are made and involve numerous assumptions, known and unknown risks and uncertainties, both general and specific, that contribute to the possibility that the predictions, forecasts, projections and other events contemplated by the forward-looking statements will not occur or will differ materially from those expected. Although Sangoma believes that the expectations represented by such forward-looking statements are reasonable based on the current business environment, there can be no assurance that such expectations will prove to be correct as these expectations are inherently subject to business, economic and competitive uncertainties and contingencies. Some of the risks and other factors which could cause results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements contained in the management's discussion and analysis include, but are not limited to changes in exchange rate between the Canadian Dollar and other currencies, the variability of sales between one reporting period and the next, changes in technology, changes in the business climate in one or more of the countries that Sangoma operates in, changes in the regulatory environment, the rate of adoption of the company's products in new markets, the decline in the importance of the PSTN and new competitive pressures. The forward-looking statements contained in this press release are expressly qualified by this cautionary statement and Sangoma undertakes no obligation to update forward-looking statements if circumstances or management's estimates or opinions should change except as required by law.

Readers are directed to Sangoma's filings on SEDAR with respect to Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Results for the basis of Sangoma's reconciliation of EBITDA to net income as calculated under IFRS.

Neither the TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

Sangoma Technologies Corporation
David Moore
Chief Financial Officer
(905) 474-1990 Ext. 4107
dsmoore@sangoma.com
www.sangoma.com

VoIP Hacks Are On The Rise: How To Protect Your Network

by Top 10 VoIP List

Protecting your Voice over IP (VoIP) network from hackers is becoming more challenging with recent increases in VoIP network attacks. With the importance of your business communications system, you need to protect it however you can. As long as your VoIP phones are connected to the network and the Internet, there is the risk of hacking. Hackers can do serious damage to your operations and gain access to your network more easily than you might think.

To protect your network, you need to understand how and why hacking attacks can occur with VoIP networks in the first place. Once you know how these attacks happen, you can proactively fix weaknesses in your system and address the security problems. You can give the upper hand and strengthen your system from hacking with the right security measures.

In this article, we will review some of the potential security issues with VoIP systems. We will help you decide how to fix the weaknesses in your VoIP system by explaining some of the primary security problems, most common attack types and by offering a few possible solutions.

In this article:

  1. How Do VoIP Attacks Happen?
  2. Common VoIP Hacking Attacks
  3. How to Strengthen Your VoIP Network Security
  4. Additional VoIP Security Tips and Tricks

1. How Do VoIP Attacks Happen?

Attacks occur on VoIP systems of every protocol, from SIP to H225 to SCCP. Hackers are no longer attacking only the bigger VoIP systems within larger companies. Now, small to medium-sized businesses are also vulnerable to attack. Unfortunately, all you can really do is work to protect yourself from hacking by proactively securing your system.

These protocols are the languages with which VoIP operates, basically. Hackers choose to target their victims by using these specific languages. Nearly half of all attacks are on the Session Internet Protocol (SIP), a popular VoIP protocol used on many different VoIP phone systems.

2. Common VoIP Hacking Attacks

There are several fairly common attacks to watch out for. Some hacks are more severe than others, but they should all be taken seriously. Pre-attacks, where the network is lightly attacked to reveal information about the network’s capabilities and security, are another possible threat. Once the network is evaluated, the hackers have a better idea of how to approach a larger hacking operation.

 

Hackers can have many different goals in mind, but taking down your VoIP network is one threat you do really want to watch for. Hackers can disrupt your business activities and damage your system. A hacking attack can successfully prevent your VoIP network from being operational, seize control of your network completely and cause other forms of damage and mayhem. Since repairing the damage can be costly, it makes sense to try and understand these attacks so you can learn to prevent them altogether.

Common VoIP Hacking Attacks:

  • Spoofing Caller ID Systems–Hackers can gain access to your VoIP network and begin gathering whatever information they can access. They can use this information in future operations or use it to send a large volume of spam calls later, depending on their goals for the hack. Hackers reach your network through your computer, your routers, IP phones or another access point within your network. With this information, they can then spam your network with unwanted calls, sell your phone numbers for use by other spam phone networks, or even steal access to your system and use it maliciously to conduct spam phone campaigns. They can change the firmware on your phones and do serious damage to your network now that they have the information they need. Leaving your IP phones with their factory-set passwords is one way this type of attack can be initiated.
  • Toll Fraud–Hackers access your VoIP network and gain information they can then use to commit fraudulent activities. They can use your network to conduct fraudulent phone campaigns and to hide their illegal phone activities, while stealing phone minutes and services from your business VoIP account in the process. They can also gain enough information to impersonate your business and create new private branch exchange (PBX) systems and obtain more VoIP services that they then have control over. They can directly harm your reputation and steal resources from your business.
  • Taking Down SIP Networks with Malicious Calls–With a large, sustained volume of fake calls, hackers can disrupt or take down your VoIP network. The strategy here is to overwhelm the network completely and break it down so it is unable to continue processing phone calls, or really doing much of anything. Essentially, this is a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on a VoIP network. It overwhelms the SIP protocol and makes the network unusable.

 

3. How to Strengthen Your VoIP Network Security

You can strengthen your VoIP network, which can help you prevent VoIP hacking attacks. There are some common-sense strategies, such as ensuring your passwords are strong, that can help prevent a variety of attacks. Keep reading for strategies that can help protect your VoIP network and investment.

  • Use Encryption–Whenever possible, use encryption to protect your network’s communications. VoIP calls are unencrypted as they travel over the Internet, but you can use encryption in your network to improve security and add a measure of safety to your network’s operations.
  • Use a VPN–A virtual private network (VPN) can help secure your network’s presence on the Internet. You can keep information transmitted between users of your network encrypted and secure. Users can access your network offsite using a VPN and be a part of your company network even if they are located offsite, which is a significant benefit if you have remote workers, too.
  • Penetration Testing and Auditing–Regularly audit your network for security holes. Look at every connection and access point for common problems and weaknesses. Keep firmware updated regularly, set strong passwords and make sure the passwords are not set to the default, factory-created codes. You can even try hacking into your own system to test your security.
  • Train Employees–By using spam calls and emails or directly speaking with employees, hackers can gain a lot of information about your system. If you regularly train your employees on signs to watch for, information to protect and risks to the network, you may be able to prevent some of the more common problems.
  • Use Strong Passwords–Make your passwords great from the very beginning, using combinations of characters whenever possible to make the passwords harder to break by hackers. Make you do not have default passwords set, since these are easy points of entry for many hackers and can represent a significant point of weakness within your network.

 

4. Additional VoIP Security Tips and Tricks

Here are some additional tips and tricks to help you secure your VoIP network.

  1. Update your equipment with newer devices that have next-generation security.
  2. Make sure all firmware and software you use with your network is kept updated. Regularly upgrade your software systems.
  3. Using firewalls can help you keep your system secure from outside intrusion.
  4. Ask your employees to report suspicious activity on your network and look out for possible hacking.
  5. Provide training to your employees and coworkers on how to keep information secure and your network safe while accessing it remotely.

8x8 Acquires MarianaIQ To Inject AI Into Cloud UC, Contact Center Solutions

by Gina Narcisi 

 

8x8 has acquired AI-powered marketing startup MarianaIQ to add new features powered by AI and machine learning to its cloud-based product portfolio.

Unified Communications as a Service and contact center provider 8x8 wants to give customers one system for employee communications and customer interactions. Adding AI to its new X Series, a platform that combines communications, collaboration and contact center solutions, will give businesses better insights into the data they are collecting every day from their own staff and end customers, the company said.

The two companies are not disclosing the financial terms of the deal.

[Related: 8x8 Touts 'Astronomical' Channel Growth; Partner Deals Increasing 50 Percent Year-Over-Year [3]]

8x8 has been focused on injecting data analytics into its communications platforms, something that customers desperately need as data piles up around how employees are interacting with customers, as well as with each other, and who may be trying to reach their company across voice, chat, and social media platforms, Bryan Martin, chairman and CTO of San Jose, Calif.-based 8x8, told CRN.

"There's a need to really harness what machine learning brings to the equation -- which is taking all this data, adding context to it, and distilling it down to key findings and trends," he said.

For partners, the acquisition will open up new big data opportunities for channel partners selling 8x8 solutions today, he said.

"Data is going to become the currency of IT," Martin said. "It's going to become the gold nugget that [partners] need to harness, and it's were partners can really add value because big data and machine learning is very confusing to a lot of their clients."

MarianaIQ (MIQ) will bolster 8x8's X Series by adding more context to customer interactions in the call center, even before an agent starts a conversation with a customer. Agents will have more details on a user, including previous interactions and history, thanks to MIQ's deep learning capabilities.

Call routing capabilities and speech analytics will also be improved following the acquisition, Martin said.

Today, 8x8’s speech analytics technology is powered by natural language processing technology. Improved speech analytics can help call center agents and inside sales better identify upsell or new sales opportunities, and escalate specific customers to managers, if need be.

In the collaboration space, 8x8 and MIQ will integrate their technologies into Google's collaboration portfolio, G-Suite, to give customers more context into their email, chat, and Google documents.

"Our vision is to [help customers] capture data from different sources, no matter where it comes in from," Martin said.

The entire MIQ team, including co-founders Soumyadeb Mitra and Venkat Nagaswamy who are leaders in the AI space will be joining 8x8. "I think the team will really strengthen the bench we have here at 8x8 around some of the work we're are doing on AI and machine learning," Martin said.

While the company has been developing its own technology, 8x8 said that acquisitions will remain a key part of its strategy to improve its cloud-based communications products. The company in 2017 acquired Sameroom for its interoperability platform. The technology is helping users today communicate across disparate enterprise-grade messaging platforms, including Slack and Stride.

Plain Old Telephones, SD-WAN And VoIP

POST WRITTEN BYVilas Uchil - Director of network engineering at BullsEye Telecom. Innovating, designing and building a collaborative unified communication network.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems have been omnipresent for the past several decades. The VoIP way of phone service delivery provides tremendous advantages as compared to its predecessor, the legacy-based plain old telephone service (POTs). The key advantages are with regard to user features, better quality of services, ease of service management and integration with other business processes.

As per an FCC report from December 2015, there were 65 million end-user switched access lines in service and 59 million interconnected VoIP subscriptions in the United States. Switched access lines provide a dial tone and are mostly POTs services. Even with known VoIP advantages, businesses in the U.S. have been slow in migrating from POTs to VoIP technology. POTs lines have physical connectivity all the way to the end user premise. VoIP technology uses the internet network for connectivity.

Businesses that want to migrate from POTs to VoIP are concerned about the performance of a VoIP system over the internet where packets compete with other data traffic in the same internet circuit. At BullsEye, we've reviewed the challenges with migrations and also found out another hindrance for a business was adapting to changes in internal processes due to the introduction of new-technology phone systems.

 

I have been in the telecom carrier world my entire working life, building communication networks and nurturing an army of engineers to deliver unified communication services. I want to share the challenges of conversion of POTs into newer VoIP technology and how the advent of software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) has provided some of the answers.

Software-Defined Wide-Area Network And VoIP design

The advent of a software-defined wide area network provided the final solution for the quality-of-experience question. The SD-WAN solution works by providing a virtual encrypted pipe (overlays) between the end user and the service provider. The end user now can have multiple internet circuits for redundancy, and the voice calls can now navigate through the circuit that provides the best performance. Virtual overlay with encryption tunneling capability provides the end user with direct connectivity to the service provider’s network. Not all SD-WAN providers can ensure a high quality of experience for their VoIP solutions. Business users should verify that the service provider hosts the SD-WAN centralized gateway at their voice infrastructure. This allows the VoIP packets from the end user's network to be handpicked and routed securely to the service provider’s voice network. This ensures a quality of experience all the way from customer's network to the voice service provider's network.

Machine-To-Machine Use Of POTs Lines

If you are working on a migration strategy for POTs to VoIP, it's important to note that the POTs lines are not just used for phone services. They are also used to service alarm systems, gate/door openers, swimming pool emergency lines, paging systems and elevator phone lines. VoIP providers are quick to sell to customers with their off-the-shelf analog telephone adapter-based VoIP solution. These can work well with regular analog phone systems. However, for machine-to-machine (MTM) communication systems like alarm devices and gate openers, the ATAs can be challenging.

Also, in instances like elevator lines, VoIP solutions require a new set of cables to be run in order to make them work. Applying design thinking concepts will allow you to understand user challenges requiring rewiring work. You may need to work with original equipment manufacturers (OEM) to ensure VoIP endpoints are built to integrate with elevator lines without additional wiring requirements.

New Services Roundup: Avant, Cisco, Sprint, Vonage, 8×8, More

 

Written by James Anderson

 

Companies in the indirect technology sales channel homed in on security and unified communications offerings last month.

Although SD-WAN, cloud and even blockchain comprised some of the technologies vendors and master agents introduced in April, nothing was hotter than security and UCaaS. CenturyLink praised how Level 3 has helped it consolidate security resources, Sprint introduced a unified communications platform, and CoreDial proclaimed that it is taking on the “big boys” in UCaaS.

The Channel Partners Conference & Expo was the catalyst for some of the new releases.

Scroll through the gallery below to read about 12 significant new products or services, either brand-new or available to a wider group of partners for the first time.

Missed last month’s services gallery? Check out the March edition.

Follow news editor @JamesAndersonCP on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8x8

8×8 launched its new X Series, which brings together separate unified communications (UC), conferencing, team collaboration and contact-center platforms with eight different options available to any given customer.

Jeffrey Schwartz wrote that the announcement represents "the latest effort among traditional customer premises equipment (CPE) PBX suppliers and VoIP telephony service providers to tap into advances in cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) technology to unify currently separate components."

5G to drive explosive growth of AI, IoT applications, says Dell CEO

Aaron Lee, Las Vegas; Willis Ke, DIGITIMES

 Thursday 3 May 2018

The upcoming 5G will be a massive accelerator on all the things going on in technology, fueling the development of all forms of AI (artificial intelligence) and IoT (Internet of Things) applications, and the tech sector must figure out how to use AI in a responsible way, according to Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of Dell.

Dell made the remarks when delivering a keynote speech at the Dell Technologies World 2018 held April 30-May 2 in Las Vegas with the theme of "Make It Real." This is the first year that all of the firm's seven brands, including VMware, Virtustream, and Dell EMC, were combined into one major event to showcase their latest software, hardware and end-to-end solutions, attracting around 14,000 attendees including Dell's global customers, solution providers, technology partners, and analysts.

Dell said that all types of AI applications are happening, and he urged partners and customers to invest in AI as data becomes their most valuable asset. He said that organizations are in danger of losing their competitive edge if they are unable to implement AI and machine learning to use data.

Data is the fuel for AI

"To be competitive in the future, you have got to use software, data and AI," Dell said. "If AI is your rocket ship, data is the fuel for your rocket. If you know how to use it, your data will become your most valuable asset - even more valuable than your applications," he stressed.

Driven by the rapid development of AI and IoT applications, up to 200TB of data a day will be generated by the typical city of one million people in 2020, and the data will be generated through a great diversity of sources including smart buildings, public security, and autonomous vehicles. In this aspect, data security will become an increasingly crucial issue, according to Dell.

Dell said that a Level 4 autonomous car will generate 4TB of new data every single day in 2020, and such big data cannot be transmitted without 5G networks. He stressed that the upcoming 5G applications will fuel the development of AI, IoT, cloud architectures and edge computing.

But there are challenges with 5G, as many telecom carriers worldwide can hardly afford the expensive network equipment, Dell said, adding that governments can play a certain role in this space by helping the carriers with equipment upgrades just as they did in optical equipment upgrade.

While Tesla founder Elon Musk compared AI to an atomic bomb and said it should be regulated, Dell said that every technology creates good and bad things, all depending on how people use it.

"Saying AI is really bad and we should not have AI is nonsense. We have to figure out how to use it in a responsible way. That is our job," Dell said.

For enterprises seeking to survive fierce competition, they have to catch up with the ongoing wave of digital transformation , Dell indicated, adding that there are no common versions of AI solutions as different solution architectures are required to meet diverse core values of enterprises.

Enterprise firm Mitel to be acquired for $2B by Rackspace investor Searchlight

Ingrid Lunden@ingridlunden / Yesterday

 

Mitel, the enterprise communications company that tried but failed to buy Polycom for $2 billion, is now being acquired for $2 billion itself. The company today announced that it has agreed to be acquired by Searchlight Capital Partners in an all-cash transaction of $2 billion, a deal that will also see the company going private.

The price is a decent jump on the company’s market cap of $1.57 billion when it closed trading on Nasdaq yesterday evening, with the $11.15 per-share-deal a 24 percent premium over the average price on the stock’s 90-day average.

Mitel said its board of directors has voted in favor of the deal and “will recommend that Mitel shareholders approve the arrangement”, although it also includes a 45-day “go-shop” period, “which permits Mitel’s Board of Directors and advisors to actively solicit, evaluate and potentially enter into negotiations with parties that make alternative acquisition proposals through June 7, 2018.” So there could be yet more developments in store.

Mitel is a legacy player in the world of enterprise communications — it’s now 45 years old — and it is perhaps known best for its IP telephony solutions, competing with the likes of Avaya and Cisco. Mitel says it counts 70 million businesses in 100 countries as customers.

But developments in the enterprise communications market — which has shifted to include things like BYO, mobile-first solutions; apps in the cloud; and massively integrated IT/comms stacks where companies are simplifying all products in single platforms (and sometimes single vendors like Microsoft), or are using upstart (and less expensive) services like Slack for all interactions, voice and text — have all served to disrupt Mitel’s business. So more recently, Mitel has been on a longer-term mission to reposition itself as a cloud-based, integrated SaaS company. As part of those efforts, last year it also acquired ShoreTel in a $430 million deal.

The deal is being described as a way to make that shift more efficiently, away from the scrutiny it might otherwise have as a publicly-listed company.

“Mitel has succeeded for 45 years because of persistent innovation and relentless focus on delivering shareholder value,” said Terry Matthews, Mitel cofounder and chairman, in a statement. “Our Board determined that this transaction, upon closing, will deliver immediate, significant and certain cash value to our shareholders. It also affirms the tremendous value and market leadership of Mitel. We believe this transaction will provide Mitel with additional flexibility as a private company to pursue the company’s move-to-the-cloud strategy.”

Notably, among Searchlight’s investments is a strategic stake in Rackspace, another legacy company that was taken private in recent years. It will be interesting to see how and if Searchlight looks to explore synergies in these holdings, given Mitel’s cloud strategy and Rackspace’s focus on managed cloud services.

“This transaction is an exciting next step in our multi-year transformation that has enabled Mitel to emerge as an industry leader in the largest markets in the world,” added Mitel CEO Rich McBee. “As a private company, and with the strategic and capital support of the Searchlight funds, we will have greater flexibility to manage the transition in our market, accelerate our strategy, and drive the next phase of success for our customers, partners, and employees.”

Mitel was in tech news several years ago for filing a patent infringement case against Facebook covering technology for calling up web pages in text-based communications (which you get if you type in a URL in a message or post); and its Internet telephony services. Facebook retaliated with patent suits of its own, and the two eventually settled out of court in 2013. Interestingly, although Mitel appeared to be tapping into patents back then that were not actively used in its mainstay PBX business, its more recent shift to the cloud and more integrated communications services across devices might just make those relevant once again.

CRM Giant Salesforce is Found to be Working on a Blockchain Product

BY DARIA RUD 

Salesforce, San Francisco-based cloud computing company, has embarked upon a blockchain product, scheduled to be announced during Dreamforce, company’s annual customer conference.

Marc Benioff and Parket Harris, co-founders of San Francisco-based cloud computing company Salesforce, revealed that the company has come to working on a blockchain product that could soon be listed in the company’s product offering.

Thoughts about the utilization of blockchain tech and possible ways of its application for Salesforce purposes came to Marc Benioff during his participation in the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. He recognized an opportunity to expand Salesforce in a meaningful manner after a conversation with a conference attendee.

In the interview (see the video above), Benioff said:

“I had been thinking a lot about what is Salesforce’s strategy around blockchain, and what is Salesforce’s strategies around cryptocurrencies and how will we relate to all of these things. He is actually a big believer in the power of serendipity, and he said just by having that conversation, it started him down the road to thinking more seriously about Salesforce’s role in this developing technology. He said the more he thought about it, the more he believed that Salesforce could make use of Blockchain. Then suddenly something clicked for him and he saw a way to put blockchain and cryptocurrencies to work in Salesforce. That’s kind of how it works and I hope by Dreamforce we will have a blockchain and cryptocurrency solution.”

He added:

“That’s kind of how it works and I hope by Dreamforce we will have a blockchain and cryptocurrency solution.”

This year Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual customer conference, is scheduled to be held in San Francisco during September 25-28.

Salesforce has always been a innovative company that is remaining up-to-date with evolving big technology. Founded back in 1999, Salesforce is the world’s number 1 Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform in the cloud, which managed to replace traditional desktop CRM software. Salesforce services are accessible anytime from anywhere. As all Salesforce products run entirely in the cloud, there’s no expensive setup costs, no maintenance and employees can work from any device, which has an internet connection – smartphone, tablet or laptop.

CRM can be easily used by both small/medium businesses and large scale enterprises. Being already used by more than 150,000 companies, Salesforce generated an annual revenue of $8.40 billion in fiscal 2017.

All in all, blockchain technology is becoming more and more mainstream. with that said, one of the most blockchain-friendly states – Arizona – just advanced tech’s ranking legitimating House Bill 2603, or the Corporations/Blockchain Technology bill, as an amendment to the Arizona Revised Statutes. The latter already supports “signatures and records secured through blockchain technology and smart contracts.” With the amendment, data that is stored and shared by corporations via the blockchain also becomes valid.

Cybersecurity in Healthcare Ails From Lack of IT Talent

Shaun Sutner

Healthcare cybersecurity woes continue unabated, with more frequent cyber attacks amid a lack of IT talent and employee awareness, but organizations are spending more on security.

Cyber attacks on healthcare organizations have been increasing, reaching an average of 16 a year, up from 11 three years ago, according to "The State of Cybersecurity in Healthcare Organizations in 2018," conducted by Ponemon and commissioned by cybersecurity vendor Merlin International.

Those intrusions, and the breaches they cause, are costing organizations $4 million per successful cyberattack, the survey of 627 health IT and security professionals found.

The survey -- which covers 2017 and compares findings from that year to those from a similar Ponemon survey covering 2015 -- also revealed that 51% of organizations sustained a loss or exposure of patient data, compared to 48% in 2015.

Meanwhile, employees in nearly half of organizations are still poorly trained or ill prepared to follow best practices for cybersecurity in healthcare, according to the survey.

Shortage of cybersecurity IT staff

Brian Wells, chief technology officer at Merlin International, said a healthcare cybersecurity IT shortage is probably due to many hospitals' inability to meet the pay rates of the financial services sector, which is generally protected by considerably more robust cybersecurity than healthcare.

Some 79% of the respondents said they find it difficult to recruit security personnel, and 74% said they don't have enough staff.

"The big hospitals are probably OK with attracting people and paying for the software and technology, but the smaller ones just aren't," Wells said.

Some good news, but mostly bad

There's a lot of bad news. One of the biggest things is that employee awareness and attentiveness to security is still an issue.

While threats to cybersecurity in healthcare have been increasing, providers and other organizations in 2017 were allocating more money to security. They spent an average of $30 million annually, up from $23 million in 2015.

Wells said the survey revealed both good news and bad -- mostly bad.

"There's a lot of bad news. One of the biggest things is that employee awareness and attentiveness to security is still an issue," Wells said. "Forty-six percent aren't really addressing that at all, which is surprising because it's a relatively inexpensive thing to do and it's pretty effective."

Also, fewer than a fifth of the organizations whose employees were surveyed do internal testing for phishing, one of the most common ways hackers can introduce malware into an organization, Wells noted.

"The good news is the investing [in cybersecurity] is going up, but I don't think it's enough," Wells said.

Meaningful use for cybersecurity?

Wells said the need for better cybersecurity in healthcare could be addressed in a similar way to how the healthcare industry moved to electronic health records, spurred by the government's incentive program.

He said a similar publicly funded effort would help providers, especially smaller hospitals, buttress cybersecurity.

More than a third of the respondents said their organizations have been hit by ransomware attacks, according to Ponemon. The group's last healthcare cybersecurity report, published in 2016, did not include ransomware, which had not become as common as it is today.

Top six threats of cybersecurity in healthcare

The top six threats to cybersecurity in healthcare, according to the 2018 Merlin-Ponemon healthcare cybersecurity report are:

  • employee negligence or error;
  • cyberattackers;
  • third-party misuse of patient data;
  • process failures;
  • system failures; and
  • insecure mobile apps.

Top weaknesses

Key cybersecurity problems noted in the Ponemon survey include:

  • Shortage of in-house IT expertise and leadership, including many organizations lacking chief security officers (CSOs)
  • Cyber-insecurity caused by the transition from legacy to cloud systems, and hybrid legacy-cloud systems
  • Attackers increasingly evading intrusion and advanced persistent threatdetection systems
  • Disruption of healthcare delivery and data system downtime due to denial-of-service attacks

In addition, the Ponemon research found that 43% of organizations don't have a CSO.

One increasingly recognized vulnerability of cybersecurity in healthcare is porous medical devices, with 59% reporting that security of medical devices is not part of their overall health IT security strategy.

High-performers keep hackers away more

On the positive side, Ponemon's special analysis of 59 respondents from high-performing organizations showed that they have been able to reduce, though not eliminate, cyberattacks.

These providers and other high-performing cybersecurity healthcare entities are more likely to have an incident response plan and a coherent strategy for securing connected medical devices.

They are also better at educating and training employees about cyber-risks and at ensuring that third-party contracts ensure the safety of HIPAA-protected health data.

But negative and surprising findings predominate in the survey, including the insight that half the respondents said they thought cloud and other newer technologies are risky, while the other half had the same misgivings about on-premises legacy infrastructures.

"So, they're kind of trapped in between," Wells said. "They don't trust what they have, and they don't trust the future."

How to Take the Risk Out of SD-WAN Deployment

Proper planning can reduce the pitfalls that kill your budget and strain performance.

Marc Sollars | February 13, 2018

We've all seen the predictions: IDC, for example, forecasts a $8 billion global software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) market by 2021 -- an enticing figure that has led many telcos and cable companies to add SD-WAN to their portfolios in the last 12 months alone. The market is clearly confident of the technology's potential to help drive greater business agility.

However, before IT teams jump on the SD-WAN bandwagon, they need to take a long, hard look at their network performance expectations and vendor capabilities. A suitable strategy will include risk assessment and risk management planning with an eye on avoiding any potential cost issues or operational constraints.

Protecting Network Performance
Enterprises increasingly are using on-premises and cloud services in hybrid deployments to boost responsiveness. And to empower local branches further and boost DevOps' innovations, they've taken networks hybrid, too -- with many using a blend of MPLS, broadband, 4G, and public Wi-Fi connectivity. As a result of these different connectivity choices, however, maintaining network performance, locally and across the globe, can be a struggle, as can keeping costs from mushrooming. Analysts have warned that despite all the network investments in recent years, global businesses still have infrastructures with sub-par connectivity; core applications that can't respond adequately to volatile economic conditions; new branch connections in need of upkeep; and difficultly keeping up with increasingly mobilized users who move from device to device throughout their working days.

 

 

Fortunately, SD-WAN promises better control of these scattered networks, sites, and applications. Layered over companies' existing connectivity solutions, SD-WAN abstracts applications and data from the underlying infrastructures. As a result, organizations using SD-WAN can better control global network performance. They can fine-tune and automate management from a central point, eliminating the need for network engineers to travel to or be located at branch offices to carry out manual network configurations.

Centralized control promises transformation of local branch capabilities. In particular, SD-WAN helps network managers make smarter decisions about the routes that data will take over the network, depending on business priorities for different applications. Enterprises can build in greater bandwidth for local offices or set up failover rules so traffic automatically switches to the next best available route and avoids downtime.

Using SD-WAN, networking teams can use cheaper connectivity options and improve application availability and business productivity, sending sensitive application traffic down high-grade routes such as MPLS while transporting less important material over cheaper routes. In addition, they can accelerate the set-up of new locations, and reduce the ongoing need for onsite maintenance.

Cost Assessment
Before rushing into an SD-WAN strategy, therefore, CIOs would be wise to seize the opportunity to assess other connectivity costs, such as enterprise-grade Internet, at the time of MPLS contract refreshes. While MPLS generally requires an organization to operate expensive edge hardware, usually to a carrier's term contract, SD-WAN flips the cost model to suit the service user, offering a low-cost commodity item with the intelligence or orchestration capabilities provided at the overlay level.

As such, SD-WAN is turning hybrid network cost equations on their head. Gartner, for example, recently estimated that a company with a traditional 250-branch WAN model could reduce three-year running costs of approximately $1.3 million to $453,000 through an SD-WAN deployment.

Carefully implemented, even in complex brownfield IT landscapes, the latest SD-WAN implementations are starting to provide new levels of network control and agility as well as boost the bottom line for performance while bringing order to network maintenance, support, and travel budgets. SD-WAN tools provide the opportunity, as Gartner puts it, for IT teams to align IT infrastructures with the businesses they serve; but planning for them also demands that they consider commercial and network priorities together and not in isolation.

To ensure effective SD-WAN planning and guard against network agility strategies placing possible constraints on the business, enterprises should take time to understand their innovation, future business model, infrastructure, and in-house resourcing needs. The need for caution naturally extends to selecting the right SD-WAN provider.

Evaluating SD-WAN Vendors
When pursuing an enterprise innovation strategy, IT needs to assess how delivering new apps for end customers or new DevOps platforms will affect bandwidth needs or alter network traffic priorities. For example, if the board is rethinking the business model, how many global locations will need support and what level of access will new classes of remote workers, partners, and contractors receive?

Network agility goals will vary widely among global companies. One enterprise might be looking for an SD-WAN vendor that provides network optimization and improved efficiency of circuits out of the box, while another focuses solely on better voice and video delivery for teams working collaboratively.

To achieve true agility, SD-WAN also forces companies to rethink their security postures, particularly where complicated configurations are in place. Security, of course, should be number one priority for any new network architecture, particularly as more applications move to the cloud. SD-WAN provides the opportunity for a more secure architecture than a traditional WAN, but to achieve this, the security team and policies must be integrated from the start. Choosing an SD-WAN provider that also understands the security world will be of clear benefit here.

Many global-level carriers rely on a single vendor to deliver their SD-WAN services, which means their capabilities are defined by what that individual vendor's product is designed to do and not necessarily suited to meeting agility requirements. IT teams might be wise to seek a specialist SD-WAN provider that can map out flexible options, without the need for a long-term deal or a large-scale investment.

Each vendor approaches architectural needs or delivers its commercial offering in very different ways. A global carrier offering connectivity with SD-WAN services may be an attractive option to a fast-growing company, especially if it provides coverage in new territories targeted by the business. Such "one size fits all" deals are simple and save time in the short term, but the IT decision makers need to be aware that the carrier agreement might limit the type of circuits used, and lock them into costly contractual commitments over a longer timeframe.

And amid the recent rush to provide SD-WAN offerings, there's the old question of vendor responsiveness and reporting. CIOs in fast-growing or hard-pressed enterprises need to satisfy themselves that the new vendor and carrier SD-WAN services established in the last 12 months are truly flexible enough to ensure manageable costs, responsive support teams, and compliance with security regulations. To perform such due diligence takes time, which must be carefully balanced with speed to market to ensure the right results.

As we've seen, finding the right way through the trees also demands detailed discussions with SD-WAN integrators and vendors that will find the most appropriate options for a global enterprise with unique network agility demands.

SD-WAN tools will undoubtedly give IT teams agile network options to better support business units around the world. But IT organizations in fast-moving companies need to assess their connectivity and performance needs carefully and ask their potential SD-WAN vendors how they'll bring clarity to implementing and managing these tools' costs. If not, IT will still struggle to see the management wood through the networking trees.

Mitel Introduce Integrated Portfolio for the North American Market

Mitel demonstrates the value of their ShoreTel acquisition

by Rebekah Carter

Mitel, a global leader in the world of business communications responsible for more than 2 billion connections worldwide, recently announced the arrival of their rebranded portfolio of on-site and cloud solutions for North America. The updated portfolio comes only a few months after Mitel purchased ShoreTel to help them deliver the broadest range of communication and collaboration strategies to consumers moving forward.

The ShoreTel acquisition allowed Mitel to offer their customers a broader range of choices when it comes to selecting the best path to the cloud.

The Mitel Portfolio for North America

The integrated and rebranded portfolio for the North American market has been designed to provide simplicity, efficiency, and reliability to enterprises and companies across the nation. The flagship solutions delivered to North America include:

On-Premises Products:

  • MiVoice Business complete with the MiCollab service and the MiContact Center service
  • MiVoice Connect: The updated version of ShoreTel Connect ONSITE, complete with Connect UC and Contact Centre
  • MiVoice Office 250 featuring applications for conversation management.

For UCaaS customers, Mitel will now be offering “MiCloud Connect”, which is the rebranded form of the ShoreTel Connect CLOUD product, combined with Teamwork and contact centre. What’s more, there’s also “MiCloud Flex”, which is the rebranded MiCloud Enterprise product, with MiCloud Contact Center and MiCollab.

Alongside the flagship products Mitel is bringing to market, the company will also be offering a range of on-site and cloud solutions and applications that have helped it to earn its position as a leader in the UC marketplace. You can find details of the fully integrated portfolio here.

A Strong Step Forward for Mitel

Mitel is already recognised as UC market leader by the Gartner Magic Quadrant and the number 2 market share holder for Unified Communications as a Service. Today, thanks to the recent ShoreTel acquisition and the decision to rebrand a powerful range of exciting UC products, Mitel’s portfolio has never been more competitive.

According to experts, Mitel can now offer its customers a broader range of on-site and cloud strategies designed to help them choose their own path to the cloud depending on the unique needs of their end-users and customers. This means that you can select the flexibility package that suits you, at a time that makes sense for your business.

Today’s businesses in North America are making the move to the cloud more rapidly than ever before to keep pace with other brands in the process of digital transformation. However, it’s important to acknowledge that different companies embrace the cloud environment at different rates. The customers that Mitel is working with today need plenty of choices available to them if they’re going to make confident decisions about their future communication portfolio, and the recent update allows Mitel to offer this versatility on a deeper level.

LogMeIn is buying Jive Communications for up to $357M to step up in enterprise unified communications

Yet more consolidation in the enterprise collaboration software market. Today LogMeIn, the company that offers conferencing services like GoToMeeting and join.me as well as authentication and other online services to businesses and others, announced that it would acquire Jive Communications for $342 million in cash plus up to $15 million based on reaching specific milestones in the next two years.

Jive Communications is not to be confused with Jive Software, the Slack competitor in enterprise collaboration that itself was acquired last year for $462 million by Aurea. However, it is also in a bigger area of enterprise communications, and underscores how we are continuing to see a lot of M&A and general growth in that market. This is a strong exit for Jive Communications, a Utah-based startup that had raised only around $31 million since it was founded in 2006.

The deal will add a suite of unified communications services that will complement and expand on LogMeIn’s existing collaboration products. Jive has 20,000 customers globally, LogMeIn said. Its primary focus is on VoIP for enterprises, and specifically hosted VoIP: while many people seem to be making a major switch away from fixed line services to mobile in the consumer and smaller business world, in the enterprise market the big shift has been from legacy phone services to VoIP — both for person-to-person and group calls — and so players like Jive are making a lot of inroads as a result of that. In addition to LogMeIn’s own products, other competitors to Jive include services like UberConference, Zoom and WebEx.

“Jive’s success in UCaaS is a testament to its modern cloud-based platform, its deliberate focus on customer satisfaction, and its renowned culture of innovation. We believe the combination of Jive’s award-winning voice, video, contact center and mobile applications with our leading collaboration products, GoToMeeting and join.me, will give LogMeIn one of the best and most comprehensive UCC offerings in the market,” said Bill Wagner, President and CEO of LogMeIn, in a statement. “The result is a deal that will accelerate our overall growth, set a new standard in the UCC market, and provide us with a foundation upon which we’ll build the next generation of LogMeIn’s UCC portfolio.”

John Pope, the CEO of Jive, will stay on running the business, reporting to Wagner. For his company, the deal will give Jive a lot more scale to grow its business. LogMeIn is significantly bigger in terms of market footprint with 25 million users, clocking seven million meetings, and over 900 million conferencing minutes each month.

“With market defining brands like GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar, LogMeIn is one of the most recognized and respected names in collaboration – a leader with the reach, scale and resources capable of fueling Jive’s next chapter of growth and customer-focused innovation. They are also a company that shares our vision and philosophy for giving millions of people a better, simpler, friction-free way to communicate and collaborate on their terms,” said Pope, in a statement. “It’s a combination that immediately gives both parties the power to deliver significantly more value to our combined customer bases.”

The deal is expected to close in Q2 of this year.

LogMeIn has been looking for more ways to expand the types of services that its providing to its existing user base, as a route to expanding its overall revenues per customer. Last summer, the company acquired an Israeli startup called Nanorep, which makes chatbots and other AI-based tools, for up to $50 million.

Finding a Good Place to Start for GDPR Compliance

Written by HITRUST Independent Security Journalist Sean Martin

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has received a ton of attention as the May 2018 date looms ahead. Even with a lot of attention paid, it still drums up a lot of confusion and angst. This simply means that more time needs to be invested to ensure a proper understanding is gained before actions are taken—or avoided.

If one was to compare GDPR against existing US privacy laws, GDPR-like requirements essentially exist in one form or another at the individual state level as well as at the federal level. HIPAA, FISMA, Do Not Call, and the Fair Credit Reporting Act are all examples.

GDPR, however, takes several leaps forward from where the US regulations are today. GDPR is truly a one-size-fits-all regulation—every industry regardless of location, and every user in Europe is impacted; either regulated by it or protected by it, respectively. This isn’t to suggest that every company in the US has to be compliant, but every company should do its own due-diligence to determine its own need to comply or keep their data out of scope.

Broader Scope Than US Regulations

Speaking of scope, the EU’s GDPR is much broader in scope than US regulations, especially when it comes to privacy mandates. GDPR essentially covers every industry and every individual in Europe; the regulation applies, it’s a matter of how the impacted company chooses to handle their data. By contrast, in the US, there could be 10 companies with completely different sets of laws and different issues they are faced with when it comes to regulations.

Some might need to adhere to HIPAA and the Statewide Health Information Exchange for New York (SHIN-NY), for example, whereas others might need to meet HIPAA and PCI DSS requirements. As can be seen by these two example, the differences can be determined industry, business type, business location, and more. Furthermore, one set of systems and data might fall into scope for some companies while different types of systems and data might come into question for others.

To put this into perspective, GDPR is less about the systems and more about the methods with which the information is being collected and stored, the business processes surrounding the use of the information, and the data flows with which the data is accessed and shared. The regulation covers everything—the data itself; the context in which the data is collected, stored, used and destroyed; the controls used to enforce access control and use policies; and the evidence required to prove compliance.

Greater Complexity Too

The EU has had privacy regulations for nearly 30 years, but GDPR’s new rules are very specific, comprehensive and more complex. When compared to US security-centric laws, such as HIPAA and PCI, GDPR is much more privacy-centric. But comprehensiveness and scope does not necessarily make it straightforward to implement. If a regulation is complicated and detailed, it is hard to enforce.

“This is GDPR version 2.0, and it’s on steroids,” said Kirk Nahra, a partner at Wiley Rein, one of the largest Washington DC law firms, with a focus on helping businesses comply with various regulations. During an interview, Nahra also added, “GDPR comes with broader applications, broader reach and significantly more complicated restrictions. It affects EU organizations AND entities around the globe doing business in Europe.”

An Intermediate Step Towards Compliance

Let’s take an example to drive home the point that all the fear mongering about anyone who touches an EU citizen needs to be GDPR compliant. As described by Nahra, we will use a hospital as an example to help illustrate the point.

“If there is an EU citizen who happens to be brought in to the emergency room, GDPR does not apply to that hospital even though they are treating an EU national,” said Nahra. “On the flip side, GDPR affects any company that markets to and has relationships with EU citizens.”

An important provision of GDPR is that data cannot leave a business entity unless the receiving party is an appropriate recipient. The US today is not an appropriate recipient since US laws are not strong enough according to GDPR regulations.

Enter the Privacy Shield program, a pre-negotiated agreement between the US and the EU that, per Nahra, allows companies in the US to take an intermediate step to compliance. Imagine a multi-national company that manages a global workforce including EU employees. They can comply with the Privacy Shield program to get permission to send data back-and-forth with its European offices.

Any non-EU enterprise or service provider doing business in Europe needs to go through Privacy Shield compliance checks. But at least that’s easier than complying with GDPR! It also makes it possible to prove to European customers that a US company is able to conduct business with them. That’s key to keeping existing markets open.

The Impact on Small Vendors

How are smaller vendors going to be impacted by the GDPR? For a consultancy doing business with a US hospital or a doctor, they should not be impacted by GDPR. But if an insurance brokerage wants to provide global medical coverage to a global company that operates in the EU, they would need to provide support for employees worldwide, including Europe; they are thus subject to GDPR.

The same would be true for a pharmaceutical company that conducts clinical trials in Europe. Small vendors providing services to US healthcare companies that are connected with European citizens are thus also subject to GDPR. They may need to be selective about doing business with clients that are global. If the cost-benefit of becoming GDPR compliant is high, then maybe the business is not worth it.

This said, GDPR isn’t just about small vendors. In fact, it could impact any organization that simply uses website tracking cookies or otherwise monitors the behavior of EU citizens on its website.

A Resource to Turn To

“One of the more difficult components of GDPR is the right to be forgotten, which means companies must delete all data it has on a customer upon the customer’s request,” said Nahra. “For a large global company, just finding every system where they have stored a customer’s data will be a big challenge.”

And this is a challenge that must be met, similar to the other regulations and standards organizations are adhering to. Organizations both inside and outside the healthcare industry that are leveraging the HITRUST framework and supporting program, already have the tools they need to begin to comply with the requirements of GDPR.

“If you comply with the HITRUST framework, you won’t be 100% compliant with GDPR, but you will be well on your way,” Nahra said. “And HITRUST is working to expand the privacy controls, which will get you even closer.”

To help US organization comply with GDPR, the HITRUST CSF is focusing its privacy requirements on generally-accepted privacy practices rather than industry- or regulation-specific requirements. HITRUST has integrated privacy requirements from GDPR into its core privacy requirements framework to the maximum extent possible. HITRUST has also placed industry- or regulation-specific requirements that may be considered beyond generally-accepted privacy practices into separate industry segments in the HITRUST CSF.

“The HITRUST team has made, and continues to make, great strides in creating a framework that allows companies to comply with all major regulations across all industries,” added Dr. Bryan Cline, VP of Standards & Analysis at HITRUST. “GDPR could be seen as an overwhelming venture, but our aim is to help ensure privacy throughout the healthcare supply chain through further improvements to the HITRUST framework and its supporting programs and help ensure organizations can meet the demands of the GDPR along with all the other regulations and standards for which they are already investing time and resources to meet.”

Most companies are taking GDPR very seriously because it’s just too risky to ignore the regulation. Data protection officers assigned by the EU will be on the lookout to prosecute cases relating privacy issues, and the fines are severe: 4% of global revenue or $20M Euro, whichever is higher.

This is exactly the type of fine that every organization needs to avoid. While compliance may not be required, it’s best to not leave it to chance to find out. And, if compliance is in the cards, why not perform your assessments and audits as part of your existing assurance and compliances programs as a means to maintain consistency and reduce unnecessary expense?

Avaya: Think Cloud... & Blockchain, IoT, and AI

Beth Schultz | January 30, 2018 | NoJitter.com

Avaya executives describe the pillars of its future in opening addresses at Avaya Engage.

As I'd suggested it would in last week's post, "Avaya Goes All In on Cloud," cloud has featured prominently in the Day 1 messaging out of Avaya Engage, the annual customer and partner conference and expo taking place this week in New Orleans. Avaya CEO Jim Chirico kicked off the conference with news that the company is acquiring its business process outsourcing (BPO) cloud partner Spoken Communications, and told his keynote audience, "If you remember one thing from my talk this morning, it's just four simple words: Think Avaya. Think Cloud."

Mercer Rowe, SVP and GM of the new Avaya Cloud business unit, reiterated the mantra and reinforced the messaging with the statement: "We're investing in cloud, we're changing our business, and we're simplifying to create the platform for innovation."

But as important as cloud is to Avaya's future, it's not the exclusive focus of innovation inside the company, said Laurent Philonenko, SVP Solutions and Technology, when he took the keynote stage. "Avaya has a huge history of innovation. It's our DNA. It's in our spirit. It's in our desire," and the innovation will not stop with the cloud and the contact center, he said. "We will continue to innovate in UC and we will continue to innovate in collaboration. There's a lot still to be done in those areas."

As Avaya evolves its platforms, it does so with the notion of enabling "everyone to connect with everything and create new use cases," Philonenko said. "Use cases are really what it's all about. Technologies are necessary, but they're not delivering the end result."

Together with Jean Turgeon, VP and chief technologist, Philonenko shared use cases related to three fundamental technology trends he said "are going to sustain everything in our business." These trends are blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), and artificial intelligence (AI).

Blockchain & Better Security
To Avaya, blockchain is about the ability to store information securely, support secure access to information, and accept financial transactions in a secure manner that previously hasn't been possible, Philonenko said. Within blockchain, the idea of a highly secure distributed ledger is "very, very important" because it creates new use cases in contact centers, UC, and collaboration, he added.

Not that Avaya will be investing in developing blockchain technology, but it has begun identifying use cases that will drive its consumption of it -- for things like identifying fraudulent transactions, tracking licensing, or identifying who has accessed reporting, Turgeon said. These are the sorts of solutions enterprises are looking for as they go through their digital transformations, and they're all highly relevant within Avaya's portfolios, he added.

Avaya customers have made their worries quite clear, Philonenko said. "We hear from you every single day," he said to the audience, noting consistent questions about security, identify protection, fraud, and licensing. Good thing is, he added, these can all benefit from the underlying technology of blockchain (and by the way, he noted, blockchain isn't just the worldwide public network everybody talks about; private blockchains are possible too, for various use cases).

Advanced security techniques can have profound impact on the contact center Turgeon added. Biometrics, for example, can help companies authenticate customers more quickly, spending less time asking questions to verify identity. Avaya partner Nuance, for example, is working with a small bank overseas on a voice biometrics project that is expected to reduce agent handle time by more than 45 seconds, said Tony Lorentzen, Nuance's SVP and GM, Voice & Security, who joined the Avaya pair on stage for a quick conversation. If a bank customer dials from his or her phone number and speaks, the bank will be able to verify the caller's identity with no additional measures. And, by shaving off that 45 seconds of call handle time, the bank will also be reducing the time fraudsters have for social engineering, he added.

IoT: All Things Considered
Regarding the second fundamental trend, IoT, Turgeon said he wants everybody to understand one thing: "Avaya understands 'things.'" In fact, he said, Avaya platforms support hundreds of thousands, if not nearly a million, things already.

"Now you can you can debate till you turn blue, 'Is a phone a thing? Is a digital phone a thing?' I say, 'Yes,'" he added. "Those things can be part of the entire ecosystem, so we have to make sure that everybody understands, and this is critical, as our customers want to transform and build a digital experience, we have to embrace what these 'things' are."

And those things are generating scads of data that's being collected, analyzed, and turned into intelligent output. What comes next -- what you do with that content -- is critical. "Well guess what," Turgeon said, "Avaya brings dial tone to IoT."

An environment comprising sophisticated computation, the omnichannel contact center, an integrated communications ecosystem, and IoT support enables the ability to deliver real-time contextual analytics information for smarter decision making on, say, routing contact center calls, Turgeon said. And so, he encouraged attendees, don't just think of Avaya for cloud, but for IoT, too.

Of course, IoT without AI isn't much good, as Philonenko noted. The connected car has become a bit of a cliché, he added, but still serves as a great example, considering all the sensors, computers, networks, and connections -- car to factory, car to car, car to road, car to temperature, car to parking, and so on. But how do you go from sensing that something requires action to triggering the workflow to take that action? "That is really where the power of the applications platforms we do will come into play."

Furthering the use case example, Turgeon noted that connected cars in Europe will soon be required to initiate communications with a contact center as soon as an airbag deploys. From the contact center, a voice call will automatically be initiated to the car and, through analyzing data pulled from this call, as well as other connected cars in the vicinity and real-time mapping, the contact center will also automatically know to dispatch one or more tow trucks to the scene.

IoT integration doesn't stop at the contact center, however. The boundaries between the contact center and UC are blurring, and the ability to bring in third-party analytics is imperative, making platform openness critical. Whether you're a contact center agent, a knowledge worker, or a business executive, "at the end of the day we are all trying to solve problems for customers," Philonenko said.

Advancing AI
As evidenced in the A.I.Connect program for developers launched last fall, Avaya is serious about openness and AI, Philonenko said. The Nuance voice biometrics integration mentioned above is one example of the value in creating an open AI platform, as is the "intelligent wire" capability that Avaya gains in the Spoken acquisition.

This intelligent wire solution analyzes contact center voice calls in real time, turns them into text, and delivers summaries to applications such as Salesforce, as Spoken CEO Mohamad Afshar described earlier from the keynote stage. This changes the economics of the contact center, reducing manual work required of contact center agents, while providing "unbelievable insight into what customers are really saying and how agents are handling interactions," he said. Intelligent wire, which of course runs in the cloud, offers an industry first, he added -- a communications platform and a voice-based AI platform integrated into a single offering.

And that more or less summarizes Avaya's goal with AI. "Our mission is to expose data in ways that make it easy to understand and then automate and predict," said Philonenko, calling out the "two sides to AI." You have to be able to ask the question: "What do I do next based on what I know?"

Global Unified Communication Market Expected to Reach $74,244 Million by 2023 

NEWS PROVIDED BYAllied Market Research Jan 25, 2018, 08:45 ET

According to a new report by Allied Market Research, titled, "Unified Communication Market by Application, and Industry Vertical: Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2016-2023," the global unified communication market was valued at $ 32,879 million in 2016, and is projected to reach at $ 74,244 million by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 12.60% from 2017 to 2023. BFSI and energy and utilities segments possess the maximum growth potential and are expected to create lucrative opportunities for industry players.

At present, unified communications witness an increased adoption in the developed and the developing regions, owing to technological innovations in product offerings, rise in need to improve interoperability & operational efficiency, surge in demand for cloud solutions, and increase in application areas among end users. Furthermore, factors such as growth associated with IoT, increase in need for mobility, BYOD trend, and proliferation of smart devices are expected to provide numerous growth opportunities. However, unified communication implementation issue is expected to restrict the growth of the market during the forecast period.

The telephony segment dominated the unified communication market in 2016, with around 29% revenue share and mobility segment is anticipated to exhibit fastest growth rate. This is attributed to the improved IT infrastructure and increased cloud-related expenditures.

The IT and telecom segment dominated the global unified communication market, with around 21% share in 2016, followed by BFSI segment. Furthermore, energy and utilities sector segment is estimated to grow at the highest CAGR of 15.06%, owing to widespread adoption of advanced solutions and increased IoT spending.

North America was the highest revenue contributor in 2016, accounting for around 42% share. Asia-Pacific is projected to grow at the highest CAGR of 16.10% during the forecast period.

The report features the competitive scenario of the unified communication market and provides comprehensive analysis of the significant growth strategies adopted by major players. The key players operating in the market include Aastra, Alcatel-Lucent, At&T, Cisco, Connect solutions, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft, Siemens Enterprise Communications, Verizon Communications, and others.

KEY FINDINGS OF THE STUDY 

  • The telephony segment dominated the global unified communication market in 2016.
  • The BFSI, energy & utilities, and IT & telecom segments are estimated to provide significant growth opportunities to the key market players.
  • The North American market is expected to be dominant, in terms of market size. However, Asia-Pacific and LAMEA are estimated to possess the highest CAGR during the forecast period.

So You Missed the December 31, 2017 NIST 800-171 Implementation Deadline?

Defense Acquisition Regulation Supplement (“DFARS”) 252.204-7012 requires defense contractors to protect the security of Controlled Unclassified Information (“CUI”). NIST 800-171[1] defines the security requirements for protecting CUI in nonfederal information systems. NIST 800-171 details adequate cybersecurity measures for each of 110 security requirements that should be adopted by defense contractors and subcontractors. The NIST will help nonfederal entities, including contractors, to comply with the security requirements using the systems and practices they already have in place, rather than trying to use government specific approaches. It provides a standardized and uniform set of requirements for all CUI security needs, tailored to nonfederal systems, allowing nonfederal organizations to be in compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements, and to consistently implement safeguards for the protection of CUI.

The deadline for full compliance with NIST 800-171 was December 31, 2017. Originally it was believed that, in order to be fully compliant with NIST 800-171, defense contractors would be required to have implemented all 110 of the security requirements by December 31, 2017. However, subsequent guidance from the Department of Defense (“DoD”) shows this is not necessarily the case. In order to demonstrate compliance with NIST 800-171, defense contractors must have two fundamental cybersecurity documents: a System Security Plan and a Plan of Action.

If all 110 security requirements are not fully implemented, a DoD contractor can comply with the deadline if it updates its System Security Plan to describe all implemented requirements and identifies those not fully implemented. For those security requirements not fully implemented, the contractor must have a Plan of Action setting forth the plan and schedule for adopting and fully implementing each security requirement not yet implemented. While the DoD does not provide explicit requirements for what these documents should look like, they do provide some guidance.[2] The System Security Plan “requires the contractor to develop, document, and periodically update, system security plans that describe system boundaries, system environments of operation, how security requirements are implemented, and the relationships with or connections to other systems.” Meanwhile, the Plan of Action should describe “how and when any unimplemented security requirements will be met, how any planned mitigations will be implemented, and how and when [contractors] will correct deficiencies and reduce or eliminate vulnerabilities in the system.” In preparing these documents, the DoD provides no single proscribed manner or process to follow. Instead, a reasonable first step may be for company personnel with knowledge of information system security practices to note what is in place, what needs to be added, and what needs to be changed or updated.

For those not already in compliance with NIST 800-171, and without a System Security Plan or Plan of Action updated to reflect the most current version of NIST 800-171, there are a couple of potentially immediate consequences. First, these contractors may be barred from contracting with the government until they can show they are in compliance with or working to be compliant with NIST 800-171. Second, because these provisions flow down to subcontractors, subcontractors should not be surprised if they receive calls from their business partners or suppliers asking if they are in compliance with NIST 800-171. Failure to comply, or an inability to produce an updated System Security Plan and Plan of Action, could result in the loss of these contracts as well.

If your company has any questions regarding compliance with NIST 800-171, or needs assistance in preparing or reviewing a System Security Plan or Plan of Action, please feel free to contact Customer First Communications for assistance.

 

[1] The National Institute of Standards and Technology (“NIST”) is the agency who published NIST 800-171. National Institute of Standards and Technology, Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information in Nonfederal Information Systems and Organizationshttp://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/SpecialPublications/NIST.SP.800-171.pdf (last visited January 16, 2018).

[2] Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Implementation of DFARS Clause 252.204-7012, Safeguarding Covered Defense Information and Cyber Incident Reportinghttps://www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/policy/policyvault/USA002829-17-DPAP.pdf (last visited January 16, 2018).