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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Vodafone is very Non(GREEN)

We receive around 150 A4 pages with the call log from Vodafone. Our monthly statement looks like a heavy book. Around 95% of these pages describe the connections to the Internet from the 3G phones. As we check mail automatically, you can realize that there are a lot of connections. The statement is useless, I don’t think that many people are interested to see how many Kb they got with an email at 4:23. However, Vodafone (at least here in Romania) sends them to every customer (there are several hundred thousand users of mobile Internet). You can realize the environment waste.

What sounded like disrespect to nature was actually more. I called them to disable these logs. They told me that the logs are normal and I can disable all (phone and data) logs only. As there is no other way to see the call logs (or I am not aware of any other way) this was less desired. But I said Yes, I prefered to have no logs at all rather that contribute to this crime.

I was amazed to see that for Vodafone this looks very normal and that they treated me like a freak because I actually wanted such a non sense (no data logs)!

What if your hosting company would send the website logs at your door every month?

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Feedback on VoipNow online trainings

We received a lot of feedback after the VoipNow online trainings this month. First, I apologize that we didn’t have enough seats for all of you that wanted to participate. It looks like the online trainings experiment was a very successful one. It is very easy for people to participate and the costs are much lower. Of course, there are some disadvantages because that human interaction is lost in a certain degree, compared to the on-site trainings. But overall the advantages are bigger than disadvantages.

I noticed that our attendants had many more business ideas after they joined the trainings. It is very easy to sense this using the question they ask like metrics 🙂 It looks like we do not communicate opportunities and system capabilities very well, so people need several presentations to realize them. But we will fix this. We also learned about some interesting businesses, for example one of our customers income grow with over 250% in the first five months of the year, only by upselling PBX to existing hosting customers. What started like a small experiment now requires automation investments.

I hope we will see you at the next training, BTW we published the schedule for July.. My recommendation is to join early.

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DNS Manager 3.0.1 maintenance release

Yes, we made available yesterday a new version of DNS Manager. From the functionality point of view this is a minor update, but there are some annoying bugs fixed as well.

This will be most likely the last version before the DNS Manager 3.2 release, which will come with many interesting new features, like support for SRV, NAPTR, IPv6, automatic round robin, etc. You guessed, it’s very easy to build VoIP infrastructures with the new version and we also included the support for round robin load balancing on the DNS Manager level. It’s not a simple round robin, but the resource monitoring is built into the server.

Meanwhile check the DNS Manager 3.0.1 announcement.

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