Spanning Sync Discount

I know many of the readers here are Mac users so I thought I’d share a good deal for you from Google Tutor – Get $5 off your purchase with this Spanning Sync discount.

Spanning Sync enables two way syncing between iCal and Google Calendar.

If you aren’t sure if it is for you check out Christine’s Spanning Sync review.

Big discounts with Tracfone codes!

I recently got a couple Tracfone’s for my family. They are a great deal just as they are but, I got one phone 100% free using Dan’s promo codes. His site has much to be desired, but the codes work, which saved me at least 100 bucks!! If you are looking for a Tracfone I suggest checking his site or looking for discounts elsewhere before you buy — it’s worth it!

Digium and Dicar Partner Up

person on phone
In the world of business, partnerships can make or break one’s endeavors. More often than not, entities come together to complement each other’s strengths. In doing so, they are able to provide better and more services and grow their businesses.

It seems that Digium and Dicar Networks are seeing things in the same light as the news is that they are intending to come together to set up something that would offer practical telephony solutions for a reasonable price. The target of this partnership? The vast state of California. They are sure to attract a lot of customers in this area, especially with their intent of providing excellent service at reasonable costs.

TMCNet reports:

The companies said the recognize that small and medium businesses have certain specific communication needs and they are looking to address that particular requirement. They are promoting the latest generation ofSwitchvox IP PBX (News – Alert) products, supplying advanced communication systems with improved versatility and more freedom.

“We are thrilled to be chosen as Digium’s select partner,” said Armando Garcia, CEO, Dicar Networks. “Switchvox is an exceptional product, backed by a world-class organization.”

Switchvox is today compatible with high speed networks and as well as the traditional telephony infrastructure. This allows businesses the option of bidding farewell to the old PBX systems, previously being used. Additionally, the technology is increasing the potential of a small business to grow larger into a global network, without straining finances too much.

“It seems unfathomable that in order to get something better, businesses are replacing expensive systems like Avaya with a solution that costs half as much, but that’s exactly what’s happening,” said Dicar Networks CEO Armando Garcia.

The latest version of Switchvox serves as a highly advanced telephone solution that creates a link between a business phone system and the Web 2.0. The switchboard runs in the web browser itself (IE or Firefox) has been proven to save time, save money and provide enhanced customer service.

All manner of employees can use the system effectively. Whether they are receptionists and need to perform telephone tasks quickly and efficiently; supervisors would need to monitor the productivity of his subordinates; or salespeople who can integrate the system with existing software to provide a better Customer Relations Management, the system is very useful.

An additional feature that Switchvox has is that it can integrate with Google Maps, placing a map pin to identify where a call originated, thus allowing businesses to provide locally relevant information instantly. The system can also present key information about a client when the call is received, allowing the operative to be responsive much faster than usual.

I am sure that once more word gets out in the market, a lot of business entities will be lining up to avail of this service.

BT: Internet Calls On The Rise

BT

British Telecom is relatively new to the VOIP world but it seems that they are getting good results out of their endeavor.  Based on a report published by the Edinburgh News online, BT has hit a million VOIP users – pretty impressive considering that the service has been around for a relatively short period of time.  Here is the report:

AROUND one million BT customers are making calls over the internet, the company’s boss revealed today.

In an interview to mark five years in the job, BT chief executive Ben Verwaayen said the group had seen an “explosion” in Voice over Internet Protocol usage – and had hit its one million target six months ahead of schedule.

Mr Verwaayen said: “Six months ago we came to the market and said we expect a million active customers by the summer of 2007. We are very proud to announce now that by the end of 2006 we reached the one million already. We are really seeing a market that is taken by storm.”

Mr Verwaayen dismissed fears that growing internet calling traffic would hurt BT’s revenue, noting that only 15 to 20 per cent of its sales depended on conventional voice calls.

He also noted that the firm was always looking for new acquisitions to grow its global services division.

The former state telephone provider offers free VoIP calls within the UK during evenings and weekends as part of its deals alongside broadband and phone line rental.

If you think about things a little more, this kind of news should not be surprising at all.  After all, the increase in VOIP usage has been the trend in other parts of the world – and why not?  We all know the benefits of VOIP services as compared to the traditional telephony – especially when it comes to pricing.  This is all the more significant for those individuals or groups who make a lot of overseas calls.  Using VOIP in this manner can cut their costs by half – or even more, in some cases.

Another thing is that with the name and the reputation that British Telecom has, the fact that it offered VOIP service is a positive thing for the technology.  Their name has somehow lent more credence to VOIP as a phone service.  With this kind of success in BT’s books, I don’t think that we should be surprised to see more companies following suit in the near future.

Want To Save $40,000?

trixbox

Who doesn’t? Well, if you really want to save that much, you might want to consider switching over to VOIP for your business. It has long been acknowledged that VOIP services are far more cost efficient than traditional telephony services. This is, in fact, the main reason many individuals and businesses are now opting to make use of VOIP.

For Hail & Cotton, the experience is something to be proud of and share with others. Hail & Cotton is a tobacco distribution company in Springfield, Tennessee. When Tres Ransom, the IT director of the company, was tasked with the overhauling of their telephone system, he was faced with a decision. This was whether to either upgrade what they were currently working with or whether to totally trash the system and go with a new one – that is, VOIP.

As with many IT personnel, VOIP seemed like a very feasible option. Ransom had some concerns, however, as he was not sure of what he was getting into. More so, he was not sure that he could do the work all by himself. Still, he did some preliminary legwork and calculated the costs of each option.

If the company were to simply upgrade their current system, it would have cost them as much $64,000. On the other hand, his researched showed that the company would have to shell out only $25,000 with VOIP. Ransom did his research on Asterisk and Trixbox at this time. As a matter of fact, Ransom did not have to do all the work on his own as he had some outside help from Voice Pulse, a well known VOIP service provider. What happened was that Voice Pulse gave the company a free trial using Voice Pulse’s Connect for Asterisk and Trixbox 2.4 CE. Ransom was quite impressed with the free trial PLUS the fact that the whole package cost almost $40,000 less than his other option.

This is indeed a prime example of what VOIP can do for a business. I think it is important to note the important role of the VOIP service provider as well. If Voice Pulse was not able to provide a clear option for Hail & Cotton and if they were not able to provide that free trial which was what impressed the client, then the deal would not have been possible.

Asterisk Vulnerability Discovered

man hitting computer

Here is something for all Asterisk users out there.  Though we may all be very enthusiastic about Asterisk and the service it provides, we have to be practical and keep our eyes open for vulnerabilities.  Even the people over at Digium do not act like ostriches and keep their head buried in the sand – I guess most other service providers act the same way.  They are always on the look out for weaknesses that other unscrupulous individuals may take advantage of.

Recently, Joel R. Voss aka. Javantea reported a vulnerability in Asterisk systems that may result in denial of service.  Many other sites and blogs have subsequently spread the word about the possible problems that may arise from the vulnerability.  People over at Digium themselves have released an advisory about the issue.  They have also released work arounds that could help solve the issue and avoid potential problems that may arise from it.

Below is the description of the vulnerability as well as other important details that you may need to resolve the issue.  This was taken from Secunia:

Description:
A vulnerability has been reported in Asterisk, which can be exploited by malicious people to cause a DoS (Denial of Service).

The vulnerability is caused due to improper verification of ACK responses during IAX2 handshakes, which can be exploited to spoof an IAX2 handshake and cause a DoS via high bandwidth usage.

The vulnerability is reported in the following versions:
* Asterisk Open Source 1.0.x (all versions)
* Asterisk Open Source 1.2.x (all versions prior to 1.2.28)
* Asterisk Open Source 1.4.x (all versions prior to 1.4.19.1)
* Asterisk Business Edition A.x.x (all versions)
* Asterisk Business Edition B.x.x (all versions prior to B.2.5.2)
* Asterisk Business Edition C.x.x (all versions prior to C.1.8.1)
* AsteriskNOW 1.0.x (all versions prior to 1.0.3)
* Asterisk Appliance Developer Kit 0.x.x (all versions)
* s800i (Asterisk Appliance) 1.0.x (all versions prior to 1.1.0.3)

Solution:
Asterisk Open Source 1.2.x:
Fixed in 1.2.28.

Asterisk Open Source 1.4.x:
Fixed in 1.4.19.1.

Asterisk Business Edition B.x.x:
Fixed in B.2.5.2

Asterisk Business Edition C.x.x:
Fixed in C.1.8.1.

AsteriskNOW:
Fixed in 1.0.3.

s800i (Asterisk Appliance):
Fixed in 1.1.0.3.

Provided and/or discovered by:
Joel R. Voss a.k.a. Javantea

Original Advisory:
Asterisk:
http://downloads.digium.com/pub/security/AST-2008-006.html

AltSci:
https://www.altsci.com/concepts/page.php?s=asteri&p=2

Here’s to hoping that you will be able to take care of the vulnerability before anything adverse happens!

Unlimited Calling For Flat Rates – Skype’s Newest Line

skype logo

Skype has become one of the premier platforms used by individuals for VOIP calls.  And why not?  It is easy to use, has several features aside from VOIP calls, and can be cheap – even free.  With all these things going for Skype, you would think that they are raking in money from their activities, wouldn’t you?

Well, according to analysts, that is not exactly the case.  Skype’s latest move, which is to introduce its newest line of products (packages with flat rates for unlimited calls), is a sign that they are not really making money off their VOIP sales.  PCWorld’s Business Center’s report on the matter states:

Skype has announced a flat rate for international calls, further showing how difficult it is to make money from telephony, according to analysts.  Skype has announced a number of different packages for unlimited fixed international calls — which if you read the fine print means 10,000 minutes per month — at a flat monthly fee. In the U.S. users will, for example, pay $9.95 (€6.95) for calls to 34 countries.

“It goes to show that there’s not really a market here,” said Gartner analyst Steve Blood. “Every few months they have to continue to reduce prices to compete — where’s the revenue to pay back the $2.6 billion?,” asks Blood.  The $2.6 billion is a reference to eBay’s acquisition of Skype in 2005, putting more pressure on Skype to make money. Skype is using the spray gun approach, offering different consumer and enterprise packages to see what works,” said Bernt Ostergaard, research director at Current Analysis.

Flat monthly fees for international calls are nothing new. Other Internet providers, especially in Europe, have been offering this for some time. “Skype was having difficulty competing in France, where the market really is at rock-bottom prices. Nine dollars and ninety-five cents is good for the U.S. market, though,” Blood said.

This is good news for VOIP users, though.  Skype’s packages are quite easy on the pocket.  Of course, as the excerpt mentioned above, the unlimited calls are only unlimited in theory.  The fine print will indicate 10,000 minutes a month.  If you do a little calculation, that would translate to about 5.56 hours a day.  If you are not going to use Skype for business, that is virtually unlimited calling!

For more detailed information, visit Skype’s page on the new packages.

Free VOIP For FSB Members

VOIP services target both individual users and business entities. Though these two groups may have different needs and preferences, VOIP can be a solution to their telecommunication needs. As more and more people are seeing VOIP as a feasible alternative to traditional telephone lines, the industry continues to grow and prosper despite the plunging economic situations in different countries all over the world.

Take, for example, the action that is being taken by the Federation of Small Businesses in the UK. The FSB is considered to be Britain’s largest business organization. Here’s a bit of background information on the FSB and the depth of its operations:

The FSB is the largest campaigning pressure group promoting and protecting the interests of the self-employed and owners of small firms. Formed in 1974, it now has over 210,000 members across 33 regions and 230 branches. On the member benefits side, it offers assistance and support 24 hours a day, while its lobbying arm – led by the Westminster Press and Parliamentary office – applies pressure on MPs, Government and Whitehall, lobbies politicians in their constituencies and puts the FSB viewpoint over to the media.

One of the major benefits is the FSB’s legal helpline which operates 24 hours a day. Last year, the helpline received over 100,000 calls, the majority of calls on employment matters but also dealing with issues such as commercial contract, landlord and tenant and consumer affairs.

Recently, the FSB released an announcement that they are providing free VOIP services to their members. Here is the press release:

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is making free access to VoIP services available to its 210,000 members.

The FSB has teamed up with VoIP provider Coms PLC to offer members a free high-quality telephony service.

Members will be given a unique telephone number that will be added to the FSB contacts directory.

Sandy Harris, the Federation’s director of member services, said: “FSB VoIP will be a valuable addition to the business networking opportunities available to our members through our online directory.”

Terry Martin, chief executive of Coms PLC, added: “This is further evidence that hosted VoIP has come of age.”

Members can declare their interest in the service by visiting the members section of the FSB website.

They will also be able to upgrade to a full VoIP account, which will give them a free additional line. The only costs incurred will be for calls made outside the FSB members’ directory.

VOIP In Australia – Regulations Being Set

voip girl
Sometimes, we become too focused on the United States and what is going on here. We can’t really be blamed – after all, this country is one of the leading countries in the world (if not the leading). Many developments and innovations start in the U.S. and the news covers a lot of happenings in the nation and disseminates the information to the rest of the world.

If you want to expand your horizons, though, it would be better to monitor the goings on in countries outside of the U.S. – it is for your personal and professional development, trust me. So what does this have to do with VOIP?

Well, VOIP is big in the U.S. – there is no doubt about that. What about its status in other parts of the world? I ran across a news article on ITWire today detailing some VOIP developments in Australia.

Apparently, their main agency that deals with communications, Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), are conducting a campaign to ensure that VOIP service providers in the country are complying with the standards that they have set. Just like in the U.S. and in other countries, VOIP regulations in Australia have been quite unclear – at least in enforcement.

With this new campaign by the ACMA, they aim to solidify the regulations and make the enforcement stricter. One good example of a specific point is the fact that the rules require VOIP service providers in Australia which are able to receive calls from and make calls to public telephone numbers should also be able to make emergency calls. In Australia, the emergency number is 000 and 106 is the number for those who are hearing or speech impaired. Skype, which is able to receive calls from and make calls to public telephone numbers, clearly states that it cannot be used to make emergency calls.

There are more details as to what the ACMA is trying to achieve with this campaign and the ITWire article presents a very clear picture. I think that this is a good step towards the standardization of VOIP services. In fact, I personally believe that certain standards should be set for all countries of the world. Of course, this might not be easy to do, what with the differences in governance. However, the idea that us consumers would know what to expect from the industry is certainly something to look forward to, isn’t it?

911 VOIP Calls Should Be Tested

911 dispatch

All Americans know how to call 911 in case of am emergency. The system was first investigated in 1958 and was set in place in 1967. The first 911 call ever to be made was in 1968. The caller was Rankin Fite, then the Alabama Speaker of the House, and the person who answered was Congressman Tom Bevill. The 911 emergency call system has gone a long way since then and has saved countless of lives.

Today, with telephony covering many aspects and facets aside from the conventional telephone lines, the ability to reach 911 in case of an emergency is something to consider. With VOIP becoming as prevalent as it is today, it is but natural to make sure that people who use VOIP lines instead of conventional phone lines will still be able to call 911 and get the fastest service possible.

This is why the Lee County Division of Public Safety is calling for the testing of the efficiency of calling 911 from VOIP lines. To date, there has been no case of failure or complications of 911 calls from VOIP lines. However, I do agree with them when they say that we should not have to wait for such an occurrence.

So why should there be any complications with VOIP lines when they function basically the same way as regular phone lines? The fact is that there are differences – significant differences. This is particularly important with the Enhanced 911 service, wherein details such as phone number, name, and address are displayed. This information can spell the difference between life and death in some cases. If the person in trouble does not have time to state the important details, the dispatcher just has to look at the information displayed on screen and have the proper people go over to the site.

Sometimes, though, when VOIP users make calls, the vital information is not displayed at all. What reasons could be behind this? One reason could be that the VOIP user did not give their VOIP service provider (VSP) that information – this could be either because they purposely did not do so OR they were not informed that they should have done so. In any case, the possible results are the same – no information will be displayed when they call 911. More so, some VOIP calls do not get connected directly to the 911 center. Instead, they are routed to a VSP center first.

As you can see, this is a vital point that has to be dealt with soon – before anyone actually gets in trouble because of the lack of proper preparation.