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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Help us prioritize posts…

We have so many ideas for new discussion subjects… Unfortunately this makes quite difficult to prioritize posts. Please let us know what do you want to read about and we will do our best to satisfy you all.

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Discount code for blog readers!

Yes, I managed to get approved a discount code for blog readers. It is available until the end of the month, but I am sure that some others will follow. The discount code is:

BLOGRELOADED

As far as I know it’s case sensitive, so make sure that you use it this way in the 4PSA Store. It will give you 15% discount to all 4PSA software products!

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Interesting stuff behind the VoipNow Call API

I see a lot of questions in support and sales (especially after the VoipNow 1.6.2 release) about VoipNow Call API. It looks to be some confusion around this subject. In VoipNow we have two Call APIs:

  • a very easy to use HTTP interface, you can use to send calls, list, hangup, etc using HTTP GET requests. Docs are here.
  • an Asterisk Manager interface that technically can be used with any client that can work with Asterisk Manager

I want to discuss about the Asterisk Manager interface, as it’s more difficult to understand. As you know VoipNow is a multitenant system. This means that you can have multiple customers on the same machine. You do not want customer X to see customer Y calls or to hangup them. Unfortunately the Asterisk manager does not care about multi-tenancy, scales very poorly with multiple connections and the authentication mechanisms are far from great. We could have rewritten the entire manager interface, but this would have created a management issue for our Asterisk build.

The natural solution was to create a proxy. There is one Open Source proxy called Astmanproxy, which is pretty well known, so the approach is not new. New was what we wanted to achieve with this proxy:

  • Integration with VoipNow. This means that the proxy should read the MySQL database
  • Quality Of Service. We were particularly interested in limiting the number of connections and number of commands sent by a user, to add black list and whitelist per IP. Otherwise you cannot really open such a service to the Internet.
  • Filtering and isolation, this means that a user logging to Call API as customer X should receive only events that are related to customer X. The proxy should ignore any command that targets a resource not owned by customer X.
  • LUA scripting for requests and answers, so the engine could translate requests and server answers before they are sent to the customer. This way the proxy could work with virtually any Asterisk Manager client, because the user can use LUA to translate requests, if these are not properly made (clients are quite different).

When we started the project we want to build these features on Astmanproxy. It was an Open Source project and we didn’t want to spend time reinventing the hot water. Unfortunately after we added most of the features to Astmanproxy, we discovered a lot of issues with it under load tests (most issues due to the threading implementation), so we started to modify it extensively. I think that today only around 20% of the original code was preserved, which is not the brightest example of software engineering.

This project was made open source and will be committed to the upcoming 4PSA Developers Network which is due this summer. I will let you know of course as soon as it will become available.

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