Business security voip

Disaster recovery in action – Timico style

It’s not very often I get excited about an ISDN line going down. This is what happened today at Timico Headquarters in Newark. Apparently becausewe are currently going through normal summer weather (that’s normal hot not normal British wet) the BT telephone exchange in Newark began to overheat. The BT response to this was to switch off some kit includiong our ISDN lines. Uhuh.

However fear not dear customer. When you called in you probably didn’t notice because our Disaster Recovery plan kicked in and the ISDN numbers were diverted to VoIP ensuring continuity of service. Hooray!

It is not true to say that this was seamless. It did take us a few minutes to realise that the lines were down and then switch over but the time lost was minimal.

The outage happened at around 14.20 and normal service was resumed at just before 17.00 hours, presumably because the sun had gone over the yardarm and the BT engineers wanted to get away for a cooling thirst-quencher.

Business dns voip

Nominet ENUM launch

It isn’t often you go to a meeting which launches a new industry. This is essentially what happened at the Radisson SAS Hotel in London today as Nominet launched their ENUM registration service.

The presentations gave a basic training in ENUM for those who needed it and then offered an open forum for discussion as to how the market would be developed.

For those that don’t know, ENUM is a means for VoIP users to connect with other VoIP users without having to pay for calls, assuming that you have the IP bandwidth. It assumes that calls are going to become free and that service providers will have to find other ways to make money. The more registered ENUM subscribers the morecalls will be free.

The reality is that it will still take a long time to happen. VoIP to VoIP interoperability is a long way from being straightforward and the service will rely on using the internet for connectivity with all the quality issues that that entails. VoIP providers such as Timico typically use high quality private IP network connections as opposed to the internet for their call traffic. This is important for businesses.

The near term pitch is the ability to connect multiple islands of VoIP such as multi site businesses (retail, police, NHS etc). VoIP providers can however do this today. Nominet rightly responds to this saying that this is not currently being done with standard scalable solutions such as ENUM. They are right but the solutions in use today exist and work and come from reputable market leaders such as Nortel and Cisco.

Timico has been involved as a pioneer in UK ENUM from its basic beginnings when it was down to volunteer efforts. With a DTI sponsored commercial activity it may well be that ENUM will eventually start gaining ground although all the building blocks are not yet quite there. Nominet has a good team but it is still going to be a long haul. Nominet recognises this and has assumed that it will take at least five years to break even.

Its going to be interesting to see what happens. Timico will participate when it believes the market, that does not yet exist, is ready.

Business mobile connectivity UC video voip

Nortel carrier strategy

Had a really good meeting with the Nortel Carrier team on Wednesday – I’ve not really had a chance to write it up and post before now. The meeting was held to discuss their SIP/multimedia product roadmap. The Nortel Enterprise Division has been making a lot of noise in the multimedia/Unified Comms space (SCS500 – I’ll write a piece on it soon) but I had been afraid that the Carrier side had sold its soul to Microsoft.

This turns out not to be the case. The Nortel AS5200 platform, which is the SIP platform used by Timico, has been adopted by a number of major Tier 1 operators and is benefiting from what seems to be a large amount of attention and investment. This to me is a very sensible thing for Nortel to do as the 5200 represents a leading edge platform for them – one which is streets ahead of any competition in the hosted VoIP/Unified Comms space.

Timico has been selling services on the back of the 5200 for 2 – 3 years. We are talking hosted VoIP, video, IM, presence, collaboration – perfect for small offices and homeworkers. The Nortel developments look to be adding more PBX type features that fill in some holes in the 5200’s repertoire. Whats more it seems to me that this switch is moving in the direction of becoming Nortel’s main carrier play. After all the CS2k, which gives Nortel its huge lead in the market, is a platform designed to emulate legacy services but in a much cheaper way than its DMS 100 TDM swich.

What’s more, new features such as federated presence, FMC, links to external directories and better support for SIP Trunks will keep Nortel at the forefront of the business communications space and allow tight integration with its Enterprise products – something that we haven’t seen before.

This is reinforced by the movement of Enterprise staff to the Carrier to aid the process.

Lastly but by no means least Nortel is moving the 5200 to Linux which will have a huge impact on the cost of rolling out and supporting 5200 based services and which I whole heartedly welcome.

I look forward to growing our Nortel relationship.


broadband video voip

The Bunk Inn

In my travels around the Timico empire I try to avoid staying in hotels. When I visit Twang in Newbury I stay at The Bunk Inn in Curridge. Home from home, good beer, good food and friendly staff.

The downside of the Bunk is that to make a mobile phone call you have to walk to the end of the road – the coverage is non existent. I know that in the past I have pitched this as a good point but when you want to stay in touch with home it is a different matter. There is a phone in the room but over the years I have had this ingrained feeling that in room phones = expensive hotel bills. In my globe trotting days the hotel phone bill would usually be bigger than the cost of the room. 

In the Bunk Inn this is not a problem because it provides internet access. Calling home is just a matter of firing up my PC and clicking on my Timico VoIP client. I can even have a video call.

Short and sweet – the blog entry not the phone call which was long and sweet.

Apps Business UC voip


Well I have been bowled over by an application that I saw today for the first time on Facebook. I was responding to an invite of an old friend Carl Ford to attend an online conference call on Alec Saunders’ Squawkbox. The subject was “deploying globally, regulated locally”.

Regulatory stuff isn’t really what turns me on but the exciting bit was the Calliflower application that was being used to host the call. This an online conferencing app that can be buried in facebook. You use the web interface to see who is online, their pictures and put your hand up when you want to say something.

The great thing was that you could also use your facebook interface to send IMs to people on the call and to write wall posts in real time.

This is a great example of what is coming along in the web2.0/voip2.0 world. The application wasn’t perfect. You either called in using Truphone or Skype or used a paid for number in the USA or France. However as an example of what can be done it was brilliant.

Immediately after the call I set up my own call (in seconds) and had a play with it with a colleague Dean Bruce. You could even press a record button and download the conference to your pc when it had all ended.

Now I’m not quite sure yet how this is going to be monetised and there are quite a few missing features compared with some commercial “Meet Me” and collaboration services such as those provided by Cisco/Webex and Nortel. Integration with your company systems, video and collaboration to name but a few.

However Dean and I walked away from the office in quite a state of excitement. It must have been because I was going home for my tea :-).  Check it out on

If you aren’t in facebook go to

Business events UC voip

The ITSPA AGM and Summer Reception

The annual ITSPA bash went ahead yesterday. Numbers were down a little, I suspect because of the encroachment of the holiday period. However once the formal proceedings were over we had a great set of panel debates and a talk from VoIPWatch blogger Andy Abramson.


I was down to moderate the Unified Communications panel. However due to illness I was stitched up with moderating the SME panel as well. This worked out ok because I was in two minds in the first place which one to go for. Timico’s sweet spot is SME but the sexy market leading stuff is Unified Comms (for the SME market in Timico’s caseJ ).


Interestingly of the fifty or so attendees the four panellists (Steve Mackenzie of ICU Global, Andy Abramson, Andrew Penn of Siemens Enterprise, Tony Cocks of Microsoft) and myself represented 5/6 of the organisations in the room involved with UC. I therefore invited Mark Owen of Nortel up to the stage to fill a spare chair and take part in the debate.


The fact that there were no other ITSPA members claiming to offer UC services is interesting. They are either offering straight dial tone products as is the case with the likes of Tesco and Orange Home (they may disagree with me) or are in the PBX replacement business.


There is an argument that says that the business market doesn’t want UC. However my take on this is that demand for UC is just about to take off as environmental and financial pressures come to the fore.


Key takes from the day?


Some big SIP trunk deals happening –  one company was spending £50k a month on call traffic with one ITSP.


Microsoft is launching a hosted version of OCS and is looking to locate one of its servers in Ireland. This is a direct service being launched by Microsoft. Not a partner play. Obviously the concern is that Microsoft’s marketing dollars can heavily influence their market share here. However after some debate the team came to the conclusion that this is an opportunity. Microsoft will make the market but a substantial number of customers will not want to deal with the big behemoth.


Also when it comes to selling communications to the SME market, which is a substantial chunk of the opportunity in the hosted space, customers like the direct touch. They need the confidence of knowing that they can trust their supplier and know who to call when they have a problem. Accessing support via an anonymous call centre won’t work for everyone. 

Business voip

Webinar on Linksys LVS2.0

The Linksys LVS2.0 is a voice system (ie PBX) for small offices. It’s pretty amazing how compact and low cost these systems have become. This one is being sold through KeConnect channels into the small business market.  Timico subsidiary KeConnect has partnered with Linksys to jointly offer a solution to their combined channels which number between 1,500 and 2,000 resellers specializing in the small business market.

Linksys will provide the system and KeConnect the communications. KeConnect was the first company to offer support for SIP Trunks for the Linksys product in the UK.

For the uninitiated a SIP Trunk is effectively a telephone line that runs over an IP connection such as ADSL. The beauty of a SIP Trunk is that you can run multiple calls/lines over a single broadband connection. The underlying analogue line can of course only support one call at a time.

A SIP Trunk can be used for both inbound and outbound calls. The LVS2.0 allows the use of both traditional analogue lines and SIP Trunks thereby giving small businesses a level of resiliency in their communications that they haven’t seen before.

Linksys is of course a Cisco brand and the LVS2.0 represents part of Cisco’s push into the SMB market. The Timico Group also supports Nortel and Avaya PBXs and has its own hosted Unified Communications service that is ideal for distributed offices and remote workers.

The Webinar takes place on Monday 14th July at 3pm via Webex. Anyone interested in attending should leave a comment and I’ll send them the login and access details. I won’t publish the comment.

In my bit of the Webinar I’ll be talking about best practice for SIP Trunks.

For more information on the LVS2.0 click here.

For more information on KeConnect click here.


Business competitions video

Video competition

Following on from a post I made in June regarding Polycom putting over a hundred videos on YouTube I have started exploring this myself.

The video at end of this post is my first post on YouTube (timicocto) where I have uploaded details of a video competition that we are running at Timico in July. The hope is that we will get some good material to post on the company website.

Ultimately we will be looking at broadcasting live and this is a step towards that goal.

I’ll report back on how it went when it is all over and done. Sorry – the competition is open to company employees only.



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.

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 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…

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.

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 …

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.

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 broadband 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. 

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.




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).

Business UC voip

Cisco SMB day, generation Y and Unified Communications

Very interesting time at the Cisco SMB day held at the Mercedes Motor Museum in Brooklands.

Bernadette Wightman, SMB Operations Director said Cisco are expecting SMBs to be worth $1Bn to them in 2009 and today’s channel event is their first big push towards getting there. The gradual migration of the Linksys brand to Cisco is also an indicator. Cisco have traditionally been too expensive a solution for the SME market and it will be interesting to see how this changes.

Unified Communications and Web2.0 was a big part of their messaging with a big focus on the change in demographics about to hit business.

The biggest users of Web2.0 are those consumers of social networking sites belonging to generation Y. In other words those born after 1980. Currently the decision makers belong to generation X, those fortunate enough to have been born on or after 1964. As someone who came into this world in 1961 I must therefore fall into “generation W” which is somewhat disconcerting.

The point it that the biggest users of Web2.0 will within 4 years represent 20 million of the workforce in the UK. As the SMB sector (under 250 employees) represents 62% of the UK workforce Web2.0 technology will have to be to be an important part of the product offering of vendors in the communications space.

The second keynote was by Anthony Hilton, Financial journalist and former Managing Director of the London Evening Standard. He suggested that whilst some market sectors such as banking and house building were being hit hard during the current financial uncertainties, other parts of the financial services sectors such as insurance and savings were doing well as consumers stopped borrowing and started saving their money.

I asked him how he saw the technology markets being affected compared with the last post 9/11 and dot com bubble bursting recession. He expects that the current financial crisis will drive business towards adopting Unified Communications products that will save them money and improve productivity. However the likelihood is that these products will be based on fairly mature technology that has been around and in use for the last five years.

Much of what is being discussed as being targeted for business is still some way off being a production item. This is despite the fact that Web2.0 in theory allows for rapid introduction of new features and products. Witness the statement that 5,000 Facebook applications were built by 90,000 developers in 7 weeks.

On display was a mockup of Webex Connect, the next gen Web2.0 offering from the hosted provider. Webex’ biggest take up has been in the SMB space but what we saw, which was a convergence of much of what is Web2.0 was not slated for production until 2010. Look out for “dusting” which is where content on the screen of your mobile device is waved or “brushed” onto your desktop when you arrive at the office.

I can’t help but think that one day these elongated product development cycles will be a thing of the past. In fact I can see the day where companies are unable to come up with product roadmaps beyond 6 months because the pace of development will be so fast that no-one will be able so see further out than that.

That being said Cisco is making all the right noise in this space and is clearly putting its money where its mouth is. One of its biggest challenges will be to recruit a channel that faces SMB customers where traditionally its big partners have gone after big Enterprise money. This fact will potentially easy open the door for new entrants into the Cisco reseller space as there is less likely to be competition from the incumbents.

Business mobile connectivity phones voip

ITSPA Dinner and Mobile VoIP

Mobile VoIP discussed at ITSPA dinner

ITSPA, the UK trade association of the internet telephony industry, held its Spring Dinner last night, attended by the great and the good of UK VoIP.  The event was held at the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists which must be one of the youngest Livery Companies in the City of London.


An interesting variety of organisations were represented ranging from equipment vendors Vegastream and ITSPs small and large. I sat between the Tesco and BT representatives, neither of who were willing to divulge the size of their subscriber base although word has it that BT has between 1m and 2m residential users.


After the dinner I led a debate on a number of subjects of interest to the VoIP community and one hot issue was mobile VoIP. Nokia are rumoured to not be providing a native SIP client in the N96, the next version of the N95, although the E Series will still have it.


This is clearly a strategy reversal on the part of the handset vendor, presumably the result of pressure from the mobile operator community. Mobile Operators are saying no to consumer VoIP. However it is harder for Nokia to take the same approach with it’s E series which is pitched firmly at business and which is the handset of choice for a number of iPBX vendors’ in premise FMC solutions.  


As it happens not many ITSPs use the native Nokia SIP client at least not without some element of plug in to make it work and many use third party applications.


Coincidentally I spent some time discussing mobile VoIP with Tesco’s Anna Boukovskaia who told me of their plans in this space. Back in the office on Friday I noticed that The Register had an article on the subject:


Tesco isn’t using the Nokia client and I imagine will be able to migrate to the N96 when available.



There are plenty of other mobile VoIP type topics but I’ll leave them for another day.




Business voip

Champions League Final

Just watching the Champions League final between Man U and Chelsea. It reminds me of the last time Man U were in the final in 1999. I was at the airport in Newark,New Jersey and rang my mum up back in the UK to find out who had won. She told me that the game was not yet over but that Manchester were losing 1 – 0. As I spoke to her she got very excited because Man U scored twice in a short space of time and won the cup. 

The point of the story is that I was on a tour of the USA visiting VoIP software vendors, and in particular those who could supply us with DSP Codec algorithms. I was working for Mitel Semiconductor and we were developing an integrated VoIP processor for small gateways and handsets. We ended up being first to market with competing against TI and 8×8 and launched at the Fall VON show later that year.

I can’t quite believe that I have been working in the VoIP space for around ten years now. It’s pretty amazing to have seen the whole technology move from something on the horizon to a mainstream industry.

PS I am a Liverpool fan 🙂