4PSA Server Controller – new version

We launched a new version of Server Controller. Server Controller is not such popular 4PSA software, and personally I fell sorry for this, because I think that it deserved more. The main problem with it was that no other control panel had such an addon and for most people it was (and it still is) difficult to understand what is Server Controller and what it does (looks like we weren’t either very good at explaining this).

The software is a Microsoft Windows program that can be used to manage and monitor multiple Plesk servers. I use it almost every day, because in many cases it’s hard to remember the logins, than login in the browser to the correct server in order to check customers and domains, add new domains, etc. With Server Controller this is very easy, because everything is accessible at a click of a mouse (you only have to add the server to it once). I estimate that most companies with serveral Plesk servers can save a lot of minutes every days with Server Controller.

The software also allows you to monitor the most important parameters of a Plesk server (an agent must be installed on the server). The new version is compatible with Microsoft Vista and also brings some other improvements. I recommended you to check it.

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4PSA Clean Server 4 – A giant step forward

A new version of 4PSA Clean Server is scheduled for September. There are many unique features built in this new version. You know that 4PSA Clean Server was the first mail antivirus for Plesk (it was released almost five years ago). Parallels also introduced some antiviruses, using engines from Dr.Web and Kaspersky. Although much more expensive than Clean Server, especially Dr.web is quite popular. There is no major difference between Clean Server and Parallels offering (well, two years ago Clean Server was considerable faster and more stable, today the difference is minimal). Clean Server still has many more features than any of them, but we felt that this was not enough for our next generation product.

One of the common problems with antiviruses (the same with antispam – yes, a new Spam Guardian 4 is also in development) is that in one massive email flow, some emails might not be scanned because the scanning engine is too busy. In order to prevent this, with Clean Server 4 we introduced a Grid scanning infrastructure. Let me explain.

Let’s say that you have a single Plesk server. You will install Clean Server on this server and it will work like previous versions. But, let’s say that you do not want your machine to be loaded by antiviruse scanning. No problem, you can get another server (a VPS might be fine) and install there the scanning engine. Then you point your Clean Server to that scanning engine. Even better, you can have multiple Plesk servers pointing to the same scanning engine, which means that a machine will be dedicated only to antivirus scanning.

Wait, that’s not all. Let’s suppose that this scanning server gets too loaded. No problem, add another scanning server and point your Plesk servers to both scanning machines. Add three, four – it does not matter. The Plesk servers will load balance scanning requests between servers in the infrastructure.

Benefits? Hard to count them all:

– It will be impossible for a hosting machine to be loaded with too many scanning requests, meaning that other services will not be affected by high loads.

– Emails can no longer pass unscanned due to QoS settings. When your scanning machine is too loaded, simply add another machine!

– Resources are much smarter spent.

– The scanning engines collect information from multiple machines, which mean that they can learn better about nasty email profiles.

This is just the most important architectural improvement in Clean Server 4. We also increased its speed by more than 200%, added more control features for end-users, improved interface, etc.

With Clean Server 4 we make a considerable jump ahead our competition. I am fully confident that this idea will be sooner or later copied. But this will take some time and guess what – we already know which one will be the next generation architecture and we started the research on it 🙂

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Do I need Plesk to use VoipNow?

The idea to write here answers to some popular questions came to us after HostingCon 2008 (yes, we got lots of questions there). In the following days we will try to answer to such questions.

People often asked if Plesk is required in order to use VoipNow. The answer is that VoipNow has nothing to do with Plesk, it’s a totally different software. Its interface looks pretty much alike, and it was created this way for end users, because it’s easier for them to learn software with a familiar interface. In fact VoipNow cannot be installed on the same server with Plesk. However, we created a Plesk addon, called VoipNow Plesk Module that allows server administrators to link together Plesk servers with VoipNow servers. This software builds an interesting opportunity for a hosting company, because they can use their customer base to upsell VoIP services. As VoipNow is ready for SMB customers, the hosting company business will boost.

The free VoipNow Plesk Module allows hosting customers to perform all hosting and VoIP related operations under Plesk. But even in this case you will need a server with Plesk and a server with VoipNow (VPSes are ok).

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HostingCon 2008 Feedback

Last week we visited Chicago and attended HostingCon 2008 as exhibitors. I want to comment a little bit around this experience. Chicago is a beautiful city, and we really enjoyed it. We accommodated downtown at the Intercontinental Hotel, next to Chicago Tribune and NBC on Michigan Avenue. We walked quite a lot, mostly in the night (too hot during the day). The town features a very inspired combination between old and new, its streets are clean and overall is hard to say anything bad about this part of the city (cannot comment about the rest).

HostingCon 2008 took place at Navy Pier, an entertainment and exhibition centre located at Lake Michigan. I think that the location and the organization was OK for the event. I didn’t like the food, but it can be just me :).

During three days, we discussed with a lot of people and we were able to get feedback from service providers and software vendors, both exhibitors and attendees. What I found quite intriguing was that the high number of exhibitors was not also matched by a high number of attendees. Most people described the event slower than the ones in the last years, and it looked like organizers focused on exhibitors and forgot about attendees. Yes, we got in touch with providers that exhibited, we were also visited by customers, and also many prospects asked us questions. From what I have been able to spot, most guys that participated as attendees were service providers. I believe this is quite unfortunate for exhibiting providers that also expected customers to be present, and here I mean the industry that buys Data Center services. I guess it’s nice to see all your competitors on the same place, it’s nice to exchange ideas on a party, but these do no pay the bills.

Possible causes for the low number of attendees would be: the period of the year chosen for this event, the large number of hosting and related events over the year, and maybe insufficient propaganda. I hope that the organizers will learn from this experience and prepare a better HostingCon 2009. BTW, next year it will be on Washington DC.

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Business addons to VoipNow

VoipNow CallAPI opens the gate to a lot of business applications that use with the Asterisk Manager protocol, which is used by CallAPI. We wrote some articles to help you setup:

TAPI on Microsoft Windows – this means that you will be able to use the Microsoft Windows Telephony features in all Windows software, like Microsoft Outlook, Windows Dialer.

Outcall – this is a nice software that can also integrate with Outlook and also provides click2call and call popup. You can call anyone from the Address book very easily.

iSymphony – allows you to control extensions (calls, redirects, hangups, etc). The company receptionist can use it with great results.

Of course, any software that uses the Asterisk Manager interface should with with 4PSA VoipNow – and if it does not work the VoipNow Proxy LUA request/answer engine can be used (but this step is a little bit more advanced). We hope you will enjoy this.

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Browsing for VoIP goodies

Sometimes I have nothing special on my list and I surf on the net searching for cool sites. Basically I keep looking for sites with quality information about VoIP (and aviation but that’s another story..). Most of the time I see the same news replicated across the whole VoIP blogging ecosystem, but sometimes I get lucky 🙂

Look at what I found:
bandwidth calculator tool, and another one. There are good if you need to provision your bandwidth requirements, also here you can find detailed description of codec types used in industry.
Going downhill, I found an article about factors affecting the voice quality of service (although the article is quite old, some things never change), but if you want serious stuff and you have 30 minutes to spend, you might want a take a look here

Why am I sharing with you these resources? I am not a technical guy, but I think that it is important to understand codecs and to allocate the necessary resources for VoIP calls.

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Come and join us at HostingCON

We will exhibit at HostingCON this year. Actually HostingCON will start in less than three weeks (it’s between 28-30 July 2008). You can find us in the same booth with Parallels, booth #401. HostingCON is the largest event in US for this industry (actually I think it’s the largest in the world). Size matters, but it’s not everything 🙂 – the quality of the event is also very good with providers and ISV joining from all continents.

So, this looks like the perfect opportunity to visit Chicago. We scheduled some interesting product releases around HostingCON, so we will have what to discuss there. If you want to schedule a business meeting with 4PSA management, email hostingcon AT 4psa.com.

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VoipNow Hosted is Available. But Why?

Some of our partners sent us emails asking why the hell we introduced the VoipNow Hosted. There were a couple of concerns expressed on their emails:

1. we are not a service provider
2. we started to compete them
3. we can offer better services because we make the software

I will try to summarize the answer to all three issues:

1. This is correct, we are not a service provider and we do not want to become one. It is true that our support department offers level 3 support, emergency support, and consulting to a lot of providers, but I think that this is one of our main assets. Usually, software companies do not have a good support, so having such activity recommends us not only from the software perspective.

2. We do not compete with our customers. Our hosted service is a premium one and it was designed to:

  1. provide study material for hosting providers. All the docs created for this service can be “adapted” by our customers on their service. Check this document and this one, the hosted model implemented by us is one of the dozen selling scenarios!
  2. provide a real life evaluation platform for some other “lazy providers” that cannot find ten minutes to setup a VPS with VoipNow
  3. provide a platform for startup providers. I think we can help them better grow their business.
  4. provide a choice to SMB companies that do not work with a provider that offers VoipNow. We will continue to refer them to our customers in most cases.

3. Yes, this is true. But we are improving automations and VoipNow based on the feedback and we do not make private releases. So, all the improvements will be available for all our customers.

I hope that this expresses better the reasons behind the VoipNow Hosted. Guys, the market is huge, I don’t think we are even scratching it. 🙂

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VON Down, Any Alternatives? Your Comments Are Welcomed..

We discussed recently inside our team about the opportunity to go (as exhibitors) to some VoIP conventions in the US and Europe. After all, we had a pretty good number of customers and partners around the world and it seems a good place to meet them in person while gaining additional exposure. After thoughtful researches we had to choose between Pulver Media’s VON and TMC’ s event ITExpo. They have both Spring and Fall US editions while VON had also (used to..) events in Europe.

As newcomers in US VoIP fairs and exhibitions we seek some advice and almost everybody indicated VON as the right choice. So we start preparing for that, and we missed the Amsterdam event (VON Europe) because it was too close, but decided to go to VON Fall edition in Boston. Unfortunately, while chatting with some friends from TMC I found out that all VON events have been canceled, Pulver Media no longer exists and nasty things are happening . I recommend you reading the comments above. We were so close to go to VON Europe in Amsterdam!!

So, in this case ITExpo remains the only viable option, unless you have other ideas. We’re preparing for Miami ITExpo in January 2009. Hope to meet our US friends there !! Meanwhile you can meet us this month in HostingCon (more about this later).

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Hosted PBX Market

Recently I saw some whitepapers showing how great the hosted PBX industry will develop in the following years that fill up with great expectations. Yes, VoipNow is a product that market cries for it 🙂 . Yes, hosted IP PBX market is here to stay (and grow) and offers obvious advantages. But, do we know how to capitalize the opportunities generated by this increasing demand?

There are two worlds colliding as the world communication is moving on IP basis: the telecom world and the xSP world, now becoming one big unified IP services market. When we start developing VoipNow couple of years ago we want it to be a bridge between hosting and telco world as his architecture and features were oriented to our primary target: the hosting providers. VoipNow may not be the only hosted PBX software on the market and arguably neither the best nor the most user friendly, but indeed, for xSP market, VoipNow is the most adapted product and is where it offers the greatest value proposition.

I had some chats with partners coming from traditional hosting and exploring entering into hosted voice business. They feel the potential but their lack of knowledge in telco sector could be a great business inhibitor. That’s why we think to give them a little help with some documents showing how to sell voice services to their (hosting) clients. There are real life scenarios with cost and revenue figures showing the economics behind a hosted voice business. You can find them here. In the following weeks I’ll keep searching for more useful info and white papers on the web about the hosted PBX business and share with you in the next posts.

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