Engineer engineering

Exciting times

I have just finished watching the most exciting tennis match I have ever seen. I’m not a huge tennis fan and don’t often watch the TV but the Nadal v Federer Wimbledon final of 2008 ranks as a classic and I’m exhausted now after sitting through it. The match was so long that the rain conveniently fell when the family evening meal came to the table thus letting me off the decision as to whether to keep the radio on whilst eating (it is bad enough having a TV – I wouldn’t dream of having one in the kitchen 🙂 ).

As an aside I do remember keeping the radio on when Europe was winning the Ryder Cup for the first time in decades. That was a no brainer and quite a long time ago now.

That wasn’t meant to be a poor attempt at a link to a technology related matter. It does however make me think that these times are the most exciting I have ever experienced in my various lives. In my home life the kids are at an exciting stage of the game. They are developing quickly and proving very demanding but also very rewarding.

At work Timico is a hugely exciting place to be. I honestly believe that the world of business communications is on the verge of enormous change. It still isn’t going to happen overnight but at least you can now see pieces of the jigsaw assembling on the table. I am not going to list all these pieces. You only have to read other blog entries on this website to understand where I am coming from. 

Business UC voip

Text to speech

Check this out. Pretty clever stuff. It shows you how text to speech technology has progressed and would fit in nicely in a vendor’s Unified Communications solution.

Apps broadband Business

Consumer ISP Versus Business ISP: The Facts

The broadband ISP community has been coming in for some bad press recently with high profile stories of


  • bandwidth capping and throttling,
  • the use of deep packet inspection to manage and shape traffic,
  • complaints to the ASA by BT regarding deception of customers by Virgin
  • complaints from the ISP industry about who pays for the bandwidth for users of  iPlayer and other internet based video streams
  • complaints on user forums about speeds throttled back to less than that of dial up at peak periods

The B2B broadband ISP community has not generally been suffering from these complaints. They arise in consumer-oriented networks from the need to cram as many customers in as possible in order to meet low price expectations. Whilst a B2B ISP still suffers from the general rise in internet bandwidth usage (currently running at around 3 – 4% a month) it cannot impose the consumer bandwidth management methods described above because a business’ internet connection is normally too important to mess with. For example when throughout drops (as it will with too many users on a network) so do VPNs therefore you have to maintain high quality throughput.


The response of the B2B ISP is to increase the overall ADSL bandwidth available and bear the cost. At the end of the day the cost has to be passed on to the customer otherwise the ISP doesn’t stay in business and the customer doesn’t have an internet connection. Business customers are likely to less sensitive to changes in costs (we aren’t talking about big numbers here anyway) recognizing that they get a better service at the end of the day.


Whilst I can only speak for Timico, and KeConnect the business customer pays for what he gets but at the end of the day he gets a much better service than the consumer.

Business events

ITSPA Summer Bash

 If you want to come to this event let me know or contact the Secretariat



Hosted by ITSPA Member BT


Wednesday 9th July 2008 


BT Auditorium

81 Newgate Street

London EC1A 7AJ

(near St Paul’s Tube Station)


1pm – Registration & Refreshment


1.30pm-ITSPA AGM (members only)




2.30pm – Keynote Interview with Andy Abramson


3pm – ‘SME’s & VoIP’

Interactive Panel Discussion


3:45pm – Break


4pm – Regulatory Update / Q&A

including discussion about the impending 999 deadline in September


4:45pm –  ‘Unified Communications and Convergence: The Facts & Fiction’

Interactive Panel Discussion


5:30pm – Drinks + Canapés


Please RSVP to Phil or Brett at the ITSPA Secretariat as soon as possible to confirm your place: [email protected] or 020 7340 1422

broadband Business

ASA Upholds BT Complaint about Virgin Broadband Service

Virgin has been told off by the Advertising Standards Agency for not telling the truth regarding the speed of its broadband service. Its the consumer versus business ISP proposition again. Virgin didn’t tell users that it caps the broadband service of some users at peak times. I’m sure that Virgin will “get them back” sometime soon :-).

Full story is available on the BBC website.

Engineer UC voip

Facebook – UK Business Communications Users

I’ve just created a new User Group on Facebook – the UK Business Communications Users.

Check it out and join it. You probably need to join Facebook if you aren’t already a member. Lets see where it gets us.

Business datacentre

Looking in on Microsoft’s Internet Strategy

In spending over $2Bn on network infrastructure, Microsoft is showing just how seriously it is taking internet business. And opening windows into its internet strategy.

I happened to be reading the New York Times today – as you do. The specific article revealed that Microsoft’s share price has dropped 5% – simply because Microsoft President Steve Ballmer mentioned that he thought technology stocks were overvalued – oops.

The main intent of the article was to look at Microsoft’s internet strategy. Its attempt to buy Yahoo has been high profile. However, what is slowly emerging is its other plans in the general area of “internet”.

Microsoft is moving into the Software as a Service (SaaS) game, which I’m certain means online based versions of the type of application that business buys today and sticks on a server in the corner of the office.  Microsoft Exchange and Sharepoint, for example. It likely means much more, though. Another interview on the web by Om Malik with Debra Chrapaty, Microsoft VP of Global Foundation Services (!!??) revealed some of the extent of the Microsoft investment in this area.

Two years ago Microsoft was said to be spending $2Bn on its network infrastructure. Some of today’s facts are absolutely astounding:

  • The company is adding 10,000 servers a month to its network.
  • New data centers being planned/under construction are equivalent of over 15 US football fields of data centre space (sounds a lot but it is probably the same as five rounders pitches J ).
  • Plans to cut of 30% to 40% in data-centre power costs company-wide over the next two years. (not buying it’s electricity from my UK supplier then – mine has just jumped UP about 150%)
  • Current network backbone runs at about 100 gigabits per second, but soon Microsoft plans to bump it to 500 Gigabits. For comparison BT21CN connectivity being offered to ISPs is based on 1gigabits rising to 10gigabits although I’m sure that their backbone must be faster than that.
  • Building out its own Content Delivery Network – 99 nodes on a 100 gigabit per second backbone.
  • For Microsoft, total data grows ten times every three years. The data in near future will soon approach 100s of petabytes.
  • Their datacentre opened in Quincy, Washington opened in April 2007 and when complete will consume 48 megawatts of energy. Microsoft can tap up to 72 MW of energy coming from hydro-electric power.
  • In San Antonio, Texas two further datacentres are planned for opening in September 2008 covering  447,000 square feet on 44 acres.

These facts and figures are just beyond comprehension for us mere mortals and are an indication of how serious the internet business is becoming.

By the way did you know that Microsoft owns Expedia, the travel site. I didn’t.

Apps Business mobile connectivity

Mobile handset wars

I have always been a fan of Nokia handsets for business use. However I have recently been a little concerned that in the longer term the writing might be on the wall. What with developments in the iphone world and more competition potentially coming from a google open mobile platform.

Nokia has just announced that it is purchasing outright rights to the Symbian operating system. The company intends to make Symbian freely  available as open source which might do something to stop the potential rot. We can only wait and see.

The developer community for iphone will I’m sure come up with thousands of applications in a very short space of time. How many of these will be particularly useful is another thing. Again we can only wait and see, or at least wait and see how many of them will be useful to business. The issue really  for me is is how many useful applications will now come out of the woodwork for Nokia handsets.

I did come across an application on the Nokia website which I consider to be supercool (excuse my naievity if readers think this is all old hat). This is a barcode generating application that allows Nokia handsets to be used as barcode scanners.

 nokia bar code

It took me seconds to generate this barcode and upload it to the blog. There have to be many uses of this in business and Nokia has made it easy. There is a prize for anyone who can tell me what the barcode says. Leave a comment if you have the answer.

Use this link to see more.

Business fun stuff

Listening to the voice of the customer

Timico lives or dies by the quality of the service it provides its customers. The continuous improvement to the service levels is something built in to framework of the business.


Monday morning is “Voice of The Customer” morning where complaints and feedback from customers received during the previous week are looked at by senior management.


You might argue that a business with its house in order should not receive any complaints. However with somewhere in the region of 10,000 businesses entrusting the care of their communications to us there is potentially always going to be someone with a problem – typically “my phone line hasn’t been working for three days” or “something has gone wrong with my broadband”but it can be more serious.


We look at whether there could have been a better way to service the customer with the problem or whether there is an improvement that could be made to our process. If necessary a director level member of staff will own the communications back to that customer.


In fact the contact details of each Timico board member are available on the website so that customers can reach senior people directly if they believe that the system has let them down for any reason.


Happily there are weeks where no specific complaints have been received and the occasion is used to talk about general ways of improving the service.


Business voip

The challenge of businesses operating over multiple sites.

The outsourcing of support functions is traditionally done by businesses because it is cheaper to do so than have the skills in house. For a small business with only a few persons it usually doesn’t make sense to have an IT department and in any case a single IT person is unlikely to have the time to learn all the skills needed in today’s complex technological environment.


Some technology vendors pitch their products only at larger enterprise customers because the complexities of what they are offering demands a skilled IT department. The rapidly changing pace of communications technology now even leads to large FTSE 100 organisations outsourcing support and management of IT networks.


The case for partnering with a company that can handle all aspects of a business’ communications technology needs is made even stronger when a company is operating across multiple locations, helped to no small degree by the continually increasing costs of travelling to these sites.


Multiple locations needn’t what might be described as branch offices. They could just be the company sales force working from their home office. The problems are the same.


A home worker having problems with his or her broadband connection is potentially going to consume just as much of an IT person’s time as if it were a major IP connection coming into the corporate headquarters building. Is it actually a broadband problem or is the analogue line faulty?  Is it a router problem?  Has the micro-filter stopped working?


The list of problems that could happen is a long one and not just limited to broadband. Here is a typical but not exhaustive list of the standard type of problem encountered by the Timico Technical Support Team in its day to day support of remote locations and networks.


  • What about when a mobile phone stops working or someone has bought a new car and needs their mobile car kit changing over, or they are having network problems with their mobile data card? What do you do?
  • Email stops working – is the vpn connection running properly? Has a setting been changed on the corporate firewall? Is remote (or corporate) IP connection running slow and therefore dropping VPN sessions? This leads on to other network latency issues such as access to corporate applications such as billing and CRM platforms running slowly.
  • Is the security at the remote site as good as the one at the main office? For example are they running an insecure wireless LAN? Is the remote virus checking software up to date? Are you opening up the corporate network to security holes by allowing remote users with less stringent internet access policies to connect in to the HQ?
  • What happens when there is a problem with a remote PC? Printer? local network?
  • Are you incurring call charges for site to site communications (you shouldn’t be)? Can you dial by extension user to user on different sites (you should be able to)?
  • Business continuity at each site – what happens if a certain functions at remote site go down? Is your phone system covered by a maintenance contract? Is it the phone system or the phone line that is actually broken?

 Got any hair left?


These problems affect all business but the more sites a business have the greater is the level of complexity that is introduced. The sensible solution is to find a partner that can help deal with any problem that comes your way.


This doesn’t mean that someone is going to be spending all their time travelling. The only sensible approach to support is to be set up to be able to do it remotely. This means having access to a professional suite of network monitoring and diagnostic tools. It also means having access to multiple skill sets of people who have seen these problems before, many times, and know how to go about fixing them.


Enter Timico stage right…

Engineer security

Junk email

Junk email filters are great. I don’t get much if any SPAM because of the Timico anti SPAM/virus service but I do get a lot of emails from genuine businesses trying to sell me tickets to conferences (usually not in the same country as I live) and from headhunters trying to place candidates.

Whilst everyone has to make a living these unsolicited sales approaches can really clog up my intray .  Amazingly enough I only recently discovered how to filter out by domain so that they all go into the junk email folder.

Also if someone calls me without a caller ID then they only stand a 50% chance of me picking up the phone. The philosophy here is that if you don’t want me to know your phone number then I quite possibly don’t mind not knowing you.

This isn’t to say I am unapproachable but you need to have an elevator pitch ready. We have recently met with some impressive technology vendors who got through on a good elevator pitch.

broadband Business security voip

Supernode Discovery

I am quite excited because I think I might have discovered a Supernode. A Skype Supernode that is.


Skype doesn’t have it’s own network infrastructure. Instead as a peer to peer technology it takes data from Skype clients around the world and identifies which users have plenty of bandwidth and processing power available. This user then becomes a Supernode which handles some of the Skype network signalling functions.


Being a broadband Supernode is not at all super as what you are effectively doing is  letting other Skype users use the broadband bandwidth that you are paying for yourself.


This customer was complaining that his quad bonded ADSL was underperforming. He was right. He was getting 1Mbps instead of his normal 9Mbps. We sent an engineer onsite and found that the customer had taken it upon himself to do some internal rewiring and had laid the ADSL cables on top of his ring main power cable. The interference from the main was causing the poor performance.


We moved the cables away from the main and hey presto the original high speed returned.


As part of the debug process we did some traffic sniffing on his network and found serious levels of peer to peer packets which turned out to be Skype.


I’m not saying that Skype in this case caused his broadband connectivity to slow down but business users should be aware of the problem. It should also be noted that Skype traffic is encrypted, at least the IM part. This means that virus scanners can’t pick up potential problem packets coming into the corporate network. Look out sensitive competitive information! Don’t keep your bank details on the network!

Business UC video voip

More petrol woes

Sorry if I keep mentioning this subject but businesses are seriously getitng hit with the price of petrol and it isn’t just transport firms.

I sat opposite a company sales director on the train to London this morning who said that his petrol costs had doubled in the last year. He was now having to micromanage the sales calls of his team so that the most efficient routes were used to minimise the travel costs. He was even about to sell his Porsche!!! :-).

In case you were wondering I was on the way to Wimbledon. My youngest son won two centre court tickets in the ballot at his tennis club and yes we had an absolutely fantastic time. Not a cheap day out though with Wimbledon towels retailing at £24 a pop (x two for bonding purposes).

The keywords you need  to know are Venus Williams, Rapahel Nadal and Andy Murray. A great tennis day out.

broadband Business ofcom

Who Pays for Next Generation Broadband?

Interesting enough debate at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in London today with the latest Telecommunications Executive Networking bash. The subject was Next Generation (NGN) broadband and specifically who is going to pay for it.


The debate was prompted by the BT position that the UK regulator OFCOM does not allow the company to make return on investment to justify spending money on an NGN network.


Panelists included Andrew Heaney from Carphone Warehouse, Kip Meek from the Broadband Stakeholders’ Group and David Campbell, Director of NGA at Openreach. It is actually a complex and highly politically charged subject when you take into consideration that BT (Openreach) has Universal Service Obligations.


In short the assembled masses, the great and the good of the UK Telecommunications industry, concluded that they wanted an NGN network to be privately funded.


A few interesting points came out of the meeting. Of the two hundred or more attendees the majority of them were equipment vendors. There can’t have been more than ten or fifteen hands up from ISPs. I’d have thought that the ISP community would have been more interested than this turnout suggests. Perhaps this is because there are few (if any) ISPs who could afford even to consider investing £12 billion in a high speed broadband network. No one is going to be able to do it alone.


There seemed also to me to be a level of ignorance as to why a high speed (100Mbps) network might be wanted. What applications would drive this they were asking?  In my experience at Timico once people get given higher speed access they find ways of using it. The move from 2Mbps ADSL to 8Mbps (up to J ) ADSL Max prompted a large increase in average usage per tail.


Andrew Heaney could see that a NGN would be required but that this wasn’t going to be for some time to come. He intimated that he would be looking to begin looking at such a network in a 2 – 4 year timeframe. He also suggested that traffic was doubling every two years. This is slightly slower growth than others in the industry are forecasting.


Whilst the chicken and the egg come into this calculation to some extent my rough back of a beer mat calculation goes like this.  Traffic doubling every 2 years is the same as being given double the download bandwidth in the same timeframe. On this basis the arrival in 2008 of (up to) 24Mbps  should prompt the need for 48 Mbps in 2010 and 96Mbps in 2012. This isn’t particularly scientific but it does provide a rough guide to the way that market demand could go.


There isn’t a plan on the table today for 96Mbps but 50Mbps is available now from Virgin. If anything would be geared to make the board of BT press the investment button for Next Generation broadband it would be seeing their market share going to Virgin.


Practically everyone in the room said they would be prepared to pay the additional £8 a month for NGN broadband that the £12bn investment is supposed to mean. Of course this is easy for a room full of well paid company directors to decide, The Openreach position is that the value in the market has disappeared and that consumers have been lead to expect faster broadband for less money.


We shall see. Interesting times ahead.

End User fun stuff

Generation Y in action

Here’s a link to my son’s website.


He hosts a radio programme in Lincoln and is encouraging listeners by making his website interactive.  You can register to become a member of the “Wake Up To The Weekend” Nation and also vote online for members of the “National Government” There is even a pictorial security code that you have to enter when you register “for security purposes”


He is 16.


The point is that this generation does this instinctively. The revolution is only just beginning.

Business UC voip



It is important to be in control of your lives. Technology can help. For example with my Unified Communications service I can dictate who can reach me and when they can reach me.


I can specify for example that during family mealtimes the phone always goes to voicemail. Moreover this voicemail message can be caller dependant. ie the message you leave for your wife can be different to the one heard by work colleagues.


The greeting could even inform the caller that you are having a meal and give them the option of leaving a message or pressing a button to continue with the call. Clearly, armed with the information that you are eating, the caller can in this case decide whether his call is important enough to disturb you.


I’m sure that there will also be times when you absolutely would not want to be disturbed and this too is an option on the same system. You are in control.


Sometimes though it is better to exercise the ultimate control and that is done by pressing the “off” button.


This is what I did yesterday when I took the kids to the Lincolnshire Show. This is the annual agricultural festival that is the highpoint of the social calendar in Lincolnshire. If you have never been you should try it.


The Lincolnshire Showground is blessed with a natural off button. In other words there is no mobile phone coverage worth shaking a stick (or a handset) at.


No calls. No emails. All this happened on the day following the night of a major network capacity upgrade. It might have been a nervous time. Engineers don’t like change because it introduces risk. The Network Operations team were in control. The upgrade was perfectly planned and perfectly executed.


Not that the Lincolnshire Show was devoid of technology. The picture below shows one of the earlier innovations to hit the county.

 tref with traction

This second picture is nothing to do with technology.

It’s about good beer. As long as you stay in control …

broadband Business

Internet Bandwidth Usage Doubles Every 18 Months

According to AT&T  their ADSL network bandwidth consumption is doubling every 18 months.


This type of statistic makes life interesting for UK ISPs who currently have to order bandwidth in large increments. This means that effectively they have to order a pipe for only a few users once capacity is reached on their existing infrastructure. What’s more they have to do this three months in advance of when they think the capacity will be required which makes it very difficult to respond quickly when usage trends increment with step functions as new drivers such as BBC iplayer enter the scene.


A consumer ISP will squeeze this capacity to the limit because of the incremental costs involved. Business oriented ISPs have to take the hit because the services they offer have to be of a better quality.


The advent of BT’s 21CN network later this year will make life a little easier though not necessarily any cheaper for the ISP community. ISPs will connect to the 21CN via an Ethernet based HostLink – typically either 1Gb or 10Gb. The up front connection charges for Ethernet products are much lower than for the legacy ATM circuits currently used to link DSL tails to an ISPs network.


The ISP will then pay for bandwidth used on this link rather than having to pay for the cost of the whole pipe. They will be able to order incremental bandwidth capacity with only two weeks notice.


21CN will bring additional benefits in that high speed Ethernet circuits should (eventually) be available almost on a country wide basis with far more cost effective pricing than is currently available.


Incidentally the top five per cent AT&Ts DSL customers consume 46 per cent of its traffic, and the top 1 per cent accounts for 21 per cent all bandwidth. It is easy to see that the industry is going to have to move to an usage based charging model as being the only fair way of doing business.

Business travel

Business travel costs being cut

More indicators pointing towards businesses cutting down on their travel spend with a boom in the low cost hotel market.

See this link from the Daily Telegraph for more

Business UC voip

Nortel SMB Certification

I am proud to announce that Timico today gained it’s Nortel SMB certification. Okay okay so what? The point is that Communications Providers and System Integrators selling a manufacturer’s product into traditional Enterprise markets will have a list of certifications as long as your arm. However none of these businesses will particularly be interested in selling into the SMB market (sorry – small and medium sized businesses).

When you have to pay expensive engineering resources to be around to install kit the money in the deal has to be there to make it worth the effort and traditionally this means selling to bigger customers.

The poor old small business, whose market segment incidentally represents the vast majority of the market, has had to exist on an adhoc basis relying on a variety of local small engineering shops to satisfy their miscellaneous technical needs.

It is unusal for a CP to hang its hat on the small business because of the cost of reaching this customer. However the traditional Enterprise equipment vendors are beginning to wake up to the opportunities in this market and I have already commented on the Cisco play via the “Linksys by Cisco” brand.

Clearly Nortel also see the merits of selling to the SMB and this latest award to Timico is a reflection of the understanding that both companies have that a professional approach to these customers is essential. The SMB is now able to source its communications and networking products from a known and trusted entitity that is called Timico.

Business video voip

WWF, VC, HD @wembley

You might ask yourself what WWF has to do with VC and HD? In fact you are probably wondering what the acronyms actually stand for and what have they got to do with Wembley.


We are talking World Wide Fund for nature, Video Conferencing and High Definition. (I knew that do I hear you say 🙂 ) and all three were being discussed at a Polycom seminar held looking down at the magnificence that is  the pitch at Wembley Stadium.


WWF is launching a programme to help businesses cut the number of flights by 1 in 5 and as a leader in the VC game Polycom found it expedient to have representatives along to make a presentation.


Obviously Polycom is using Global Warming and the need to reduce carbon footprints as a sales tool for its VC systems but the cynics amongst you should not poo poo this as it is a perfectly valid/nay sensible thing to do. VC does help cut down on business travel and thus helps save the planet as well as reducing costs.


One of the reasons I attended was to hear what Polycom was doing with Microsoft on OCS. Turns out they make some of the handsets and are producing a couple of VC products (HDX4000 and HDX8000) that integrate with OCS (more details anon I’m sure).


What really interested we was the fact that Microsoft has 11,000 staff working on rich media collaboration, apparently more than the rest of the industry put together. One of the OCS phones doesn’t even have a keypad. Microsoft is saying that you only need your desktop. The Polycom perspective on this is that businesses haven’t gone for desktop VC because of the difficulty of maintaining dispersed resources. It’s hard to see Microsoft getting this wrong.


A number of OCS case studies were presented. Gibson guitars reduced calling costs by 75% using OCS.  Prodavka reduced phone costs by 50%


There were lots of other interesting facts being bandied around:


  • China is the second biggest market for VC behind the USA
  • The biggest issue facing adoption of VC is the ability to reserve resources. ie room booking
  • The average HD system cost is $8k cf $200k for telepresence.
  • In 2008 there will be 1500 telepresence systems sold worldwide. By 2012 this is expected to grow to 17,000.
  • Interoperability between different vendor systems is still an issue
  • 1 long haul flight is equivalent of 12 months driving from a carbon footprint perspective
  • Air travel is the fastest growing contributor of CO2 – 3% today, 25% by 2030
  • The fastest ways of reducing CO2 generation include power saving data centres, extending networks to home workers and increased usage of collaboration and content sharing tools (video and voice conferencing) as alternative to travel.
  • The M4 motorway at Slough is operating at 150% capacity
  • The average traffic speed in London is 8 mph – no increase since the horse and cart !
  • PWC avoided 1.1 million miles of travel through use of VC resulting in the saving of 198kg of CO2
  • BT has claimed £238m benefit to their business by use of VC – £100m based on travel cost benefits and the rest based on productivity improvements including reduced staff sickness
  • Nortel has saved $60k a week on travel due to telepresence with 10 systems worldwide
  • A Yougov survey in 2007 said 37% of face to face meetings were deemed unnecessary
  • If European companies cut travel by 20% there would be a saving of 22m tons of CO2 a year

Finally Polycom played some impressive videos including


broadband Business voip

It’s funny who you meet on a cruise

Yesterday’s post on fuel prices turns out to have been quite timely because today our CEO Chris came back into the office with a spring in his step.


He had just returned from the IT Directors’ Forum on board the cruise liner Aurora. I’ve been pulling his leg on this for some time making sure that he had his yachting cap cleaned and his blazer pressed. However the purpose of his trip was serious. This was to brush shoulders with company IT Directors who might be target markets for Timico services.


He was pushing home worker solutions. Timico subsidiary is a provider of communications services to the home worker communities of a number of FTSE 250 companies.


The point is that having pitched our home worker proposition to some of the 240 senior executives attending the event he came away with 35 strong expressions of interest. This highlights that business really is beginning to recognise the modern day forces affecting the performance of their workforce. More people are being allowed to work from home for some of the time and with the costs of moving around this trend is only going to continue.

Business security voip


One of the problems facing the VoIP industry is of course SPIT. SPIT is the SPAM of the Internet Telephony industry. Robot diallers are a huge problem in North America and I have a friend who always listens to who is leaving an answer phone message before picking up the call. A high proportion of calls are from computers.


In the IP world it is even easier to make huge volumes of VoIP calls from a computer, particularly because there is potentially no cost involved. The model here is the same as for SPAM which is of course essentially free of charge.


The interesting dilemma is that whilst a SPAM filter can monitor and email for particular types of content this is not possible in Internet Telephony where a call has to be set up and answered before the callee knows who is speaking to them.


We therefore have to employ more sophisticated techniques in spotting this type of traffic and in general an ITSP will monitor the call traffic on its network to identify unusual patterns. For example if a specific caller is making multiple calls inside an unreasonable short space of time then it cannot be a human making the call. Alternatively if calls to many different end users are going unanswered then this too is unusual behaviour and is likely to be a computer.


The level of SPIT facing an ITSP has not yet reached the proportions of SPAM which can be over 90 percent of all incoming emails (if you are receiving a high level of SPAM you need to change to a professional anti SPAM service). It is however certainly something that a serious ITSP takes seriously.

Business video voip

Will petrol price itself out of the market?

I had my first £80 tank of petrol today. It seems to me that now is the time to start investing in public transport stocks.

I also has to be time to look at ways that a business can cut down on its travel spending and Unified Communications and online collaboration is the way forward. We recently had an architect approach us for a video conferencing solution so that his business could conduct video conferences with their London office. Historically they took the train and spent the day in the office. Travel time was 2 1/2 hours each way for the two Lincoln based partners. That’s ten man hours (at whatever the going rate is for an architect) plus over two hundred pounds for the trainfare.

The video conferencing solution used was Timico VoIP for Business which cost them £10 a month per site plus a few hundred pounds for high spec telephone handsets. The broadband connectivity was already in place at each end. The service will have paid for itself on it’s first day of use. That’s a serious rate of return. 

Apps Business storage backup & dr

Voodoo Engineering and Knowledge Base Software

No “black magic” shaman under employ can beat the benefits of information sharing via knowledge base software.

One of our sys admins when asked what he did to fix a technical problem would always say “voodoo”, giving the impression that it was all black magic. This might have raised a laugh, but in actual fact it wasn’t very helpful as he kept the fixes to himself and engineers around him did not learn from him. That engineer is no longer with us, and in the meantime we have adopted Microsoft Sharepoint.

Basically a wiki or information source, Sharepoint is very easy to upload data to and serves as an intranet for small and medium sized businesses. We use it as a knowledge base. Whenever someone comes across a technical problem that is likely to reoccur, the person involved in its resolution creates a page on the wiki. Others can easily navigate to this page and also search for specific subjects. Documents can be uploaded using Windows Explorer or any other file manager, so that the support site has grown very quickly to become a rich store of information tat includes vendor manuals and guides as well as self-generated material.

The same principle can, of course, be extended to any department in the company requiring document storage. The beauty of it is that the storage can be located anywhere and not just at the company’s premises so that it can form part of a company DR plan with very little effort.

Engineer security

Network Security

One subject that is dear to the heart of a major corporation is network security. One often hears anecdotal evidence of the huge steps companies take to protect their intellectual property. I even knew a company whose boardroom was “secure” and had regular scans for listening devices. Also there have been a number of high profile news items where CDs with bank account information have gone astray in the post or where laptops have been stolen resulting in embarrassing security breaches.


For a smaller organisation it doesn’t necessarily make economic sense to employ dedicated IT staff to look after the security of their network. This doesn’t make their important information any less valuable in relative terms than that of a major international corporation.


Security is a huge subject so where do you start. To begin with businesses can make sure that the way they connect to the outside world is secure.

  • Sign up for a good quality anti-virus and anti spam service that is updated regularly – don’t rely on the one that often comes as a free trial with your PC.
  • Make sure that you have a company firewall and that this is properly managed
  • Ensure that you have adequate resilience in place for critical business components/resources. Eg use a server with dual power supplies, back up critical data daily (at least)
  • If you are using a Wireless LAN is this properly protected/encrypted?
  • Are your passwords secure (eg “password” is not a secure password) and how often do you change them?

This is all basic stuff but a small business needs to make sure that it has it all covered. A little time spent on prevention is better that the days of effort it might take you to recover from a virus attack or someone maliciously hacking into your network.

broadband Business

Multi-Site Broadband VPN Deployments

If your company is deploying multi-site broadband VPNs you need to consider using a L2TP Private Wide Area Network. A PWAN employs Virtual Route Forwarding to offer complete security over a shared MPLS backbone.


The beauty of this approach is that you don’t need expensive MPLS connections – an ADSL line will do which can be a very cost effective way of providing security to remote sites.


Moreover there is a choice of PWAN with or without internet access. A company that needs only an inward facing network, for example for streaming music or messaging to stores completely removes the need for firewall support at each remote site.


For a slightly more sophisticated network with internet access and, say broadband VPN connectivity for mobile workers, only one centrally located firewall is needed (or two for resiliency).


This means that corporate resources such as billing platforms and CRM packages that would normally be located at the corporate HQ can now be located at a centrally positioned data-centre. This is then accessible to every site on the corporate network without the need to provide an expensive beefed up IP connection to the HQ and removes this as a single point of failure.


Typically not every ISP offers this kind of PWAN. It relies on BT Central pipes that support L2TP which the smaller pipes do not do. Larger consumer oriented ISPs that may well have the technology are potentially not interested in supporting what is essentially an unique circuit design for every customer.

Business UC voip

SMB drivers

I gave a talk at the Linksys by Cisco reseller day yesterday. There was a good turnout despite the torrential rain and the venue, the Williams Formula1 Conference Centre was a top notch attraction. The day went well with ISP KeConnect demonstrating SIP trunks into a Linksys SPA9000.


The content of some of the presentations was also very interesting and I wrote down some salient facts.


The top three priorities for Small and Medium Sized businesses in the next 12 months are enhancing IT security and privacy 47%, deploying DR solution 40%, enhancing internet access speeds  35%.


Laptops represented 47% of all PCs shipped in 2006, up from 35% in 2004 and there is a 14-15% annual growth in handheld/PDA shipments. 14% of Small Businesses offer telecommuting and over 50% SMBs have mobile staff


Group calendaring the norm in MB, growing in SB. Web conferencing, Intranets the norm, IP voice and applications connect growing in MB with growth in business utility of IM and soft phones.


SBs are rapidly transitioning to broadband (60%) and the desire to upgrade bandwidth is universally strong. Strong growth in WiFi, acute sensitivity to security and data protection, a strong desire to connect multiple sites and SaaS, virtualization adoption were also key forces.


Finally all this indicates that on-premises IT complexity is increasing and managed/hosted services are becoming more viable. There is also an increasing preference for “better” channel partners and SMBs are reassessing their choice of “trusted partner”.


This world is full of opportunity…

me holding the constructors\' trophy next to a Williams F1 carMe with constructors’ trophy next to Williams F1 car

Engineer voip

SIP trunks as part of a DR plan

DR is a hot topic these days as more and more firms rely on data that is not stored as hard copy. Virtual Servers are a great way of implementing a DR strategy for a business.


Another area that is gaining ground is in the use of SIP Trunks as part of a DR plan. Rather than completely replacing ISDN or analogue telephony connections with an IP equivalent companies are running with both.


The company will typically keep its inbound traffic running over ISDN and use SIP, with its typically lower cost call charges, for outbound. The beauty is that if the site loses its ISDN connection for any reason the business, with an appropriate level of support, can reroute its inbound numbers to an alternative destination which is has been pre-setup as an inbound SIP trunk. Likewise if the IP connection drops then the business can temporarily use the more expensive ISDN lines.


For a multi-site organisation this is a no brainer as remote locations can also be connected to the company headquarters using the same SIP trunks. The IP interconnect can be an ADSL line, or for larger organisations requiring more trunks and perhaps a higher level of Service Level Assurance, over leased lines.




broadband Business

Heaviest Virgin Media Downloaders Face New Daytime Go-Slow

This is an article reproduced from The Register.

It is basically a perfect advertisment as to why people should use a quality ISP as opposed to a “pile it high sell it cheap” operator. Timico’s policy is that “we don’t throttle….. we just ask users to pay a usage based surcharge if they choose to use a lot of our bandwidth….SIMPLE!”

If business users chose to go with an ISP who operates the type of policy outlined by Virgin below then they are going to get a non optimal experience.

the story goes

Virgin Media will double the number of hours it throttles the bandwidth of customers who hammer its network day and night, changes to its traffic management policy have revealed.

The tightened regime means that between 10am and 3pm subscribers to its “M”, “L” and “XL” packages will have their connection throttled for five hours if they download more than their full speed ration.

The decision follows recent regional testing of extended restrictions in London and the North West. Previously the brakes were only slammed on for five hours if limits were exceeded at any point between 4pm and 9pm.

Now, “M” customers who bust 900MB during the day will have their theoretical maximum download halved from 2Mbit/s to 1Mbit/s. “L” and “XL” users’ usual headline speeds of 10MBit/s and 20MBit/s will be slowed by three quarters if they break daytime download limits of 2400MB and 6000MB respectively.

The download thresholds for the daytime broadband throttling period are double those of the evening period, which also restricts uploads. We’ve reproduced Virgin Media’s explanatory table below:

Virgin Media says that at current levels of demand, one per cent of its 3.8 million customers will be affected by the new daytime restrictions. In the evening, when ISP networks are under most strain, traffic limits are aimed at the top five per cent heaviest users.

A spokesman said the new rules are necessary to ensure quality of service for the majority. The move will nevertheless anger some who have been tricked into believing that “unlimited” broadband actually exists by years of crummy marketing by the ISP industry.

The cable monopoly, created by the merger of NTL and Telewest in 2006, is currently working to boost its top speed to 50MBit/s as part of its strategy to put broadband at the centre of its quadruple-play offering. recent trials to ramp Virgin Media’s 10Gbit/s backhaul to 40GBit/s in support of the upgrade were successful. ®

Business voip

How will 21CN affect my telephone line?

We had an enquiry from a customer this morning:

“I am persistently being contacted by David from ***** who has advised me that with 21CN BT are changing every business line from Analogue or ISDN to a SIP network and that there is no choice in the matter”.

David was trying to get the customer to move to a SIP service by telling her that she would need to do it soon in anycase so she might as well preempt it by doing it now. As a SIP provider I am not averse to selling SIP services but this has to be approached ethically.

From the customer’s perspective BT aren’t getting rid of analogue lines or ISDN. What they are doing is changing the connection at the exchange so that all calls will run over voip between exchanges. This will make the network more efficient/cheaper to run and potentially allow for the introduction of new features in the future.

So any kit the customer has should still work and they will still be ordering new lines as they do now. They needn’t worry about having to re-equip their office.

Potentially there will be new products such as the ability to order broadband and voice as a single line. This is effectively what LLU operators do today though some may sell it as a free broadband line (comes with notoriously “cheap” quality and customer service etc).