Tag Archives: VoIP

SIP Trunking: What Is It and How Does It Support My Business

Cutting costs and increasing productivity is the mantra of most businesses today. Taking advantage of new telecom technologies is a prime way to increase communication and collaboration inside and outside the organization. To take full advantage of your business telephone services consider utilizing SIP Trunking.

In traditional telephony a physical circuit is need to connect the telephone system (PBX) to the public switched telephone network (PSTN). If you have various locations connected to your PBX, you are probably paying for a T1-PRI (Primary Rate Interface) to each, or if your capacity is larger than 23 channels you may have to purchase additional PRI circuits. With SIP trunking you eliminate the need for the physical circuit and receive telephone service over the data network instead; voice simply becomes another service running on your data network. The SIP trunk can carry voice, data and video all at the same time.

There is more to the cost efficiency of SIP trunking. As mentioned above, PRI is sold in increments of 23 but with managed SIP trunks you only pay for the lines or bandwidth that you need and add additional capacity when necessary. SIP trunking can also include all of your local and long distance telephone usage allowing you to predict and control your monthly communication expenses better than ever before.

An added benefit and one that can be crucial, is the disaster recovery capability of SIP Trunking. When utilizing direct trunk overflow you have the ability to transfer inbound calls to an alternate location (phone number). This can be invaluable if for any reason connectivity to the PSTN from a location is lost. This will allow you to continue communicating with your clients and employees until the situation is resolved.

At InfoStructure we know what it takes to leverage the most out of your business communication investment. With our InfoSIP trunking solution you have the flexibility of our national plan or local plan with free installation for either. Check out our FAQ page then contact us for a complete quote or help in determining what solution works best for your objectives.

Voice in the Cloud

What do you have when you integrate business class IP phones, a PC interface with advanced PBX management functions plus a wide array of user features, high definition voice, as well as local and long distance service, all provided from the cloud on a unified platform?…InfoTalk Pro.

InfoTalk Pro, the latest product of InfoStructure, represents a new era of IP cloud communications, where voice and data are uniquely unified on the desktop to provide a powerful communications application. With extensive telephony functions accessible through your browser interface, you can now simply point-and-click your way to making new calls, accessing your call history, dialing an employee’s extension, managing your user features, originating a conference call, administering new phone numbers, receiving calls, and much more. All of the functionality is “hosted” in the InfoStructure network, relieving you of the standard PBX maintenance responsibility and associated costs. And because InfoTalk Pro is provided as a managed service, not a phone system, you don’t incur the huge capital cost in purchasing a traditional PBX system!

In addition to cost savings, InfoTalk Pro translates into many other benefits:

 Flexibility – real time moves, ads & changes
 Productivity – ease and speed of use
 Scalability – grows with your business
 Mobility – usable via the Internet anywhere on the planet
 Reliability – maintained by InfoStructure 7 X 24 for you
 Controllability – user and management system controls

To receive a quote for your business on InfoTalk Pro, give us a call at 541-842-8214 or visit our website section on Unified Communications.

The Weak Link

Sophisticated IP cloud app’s work only as good as the network supporting them. The greater the reliability on cloud services, the more attention your network connection should receive.

Hosted VoIP is an excellent example. By hosted VoIP, we’re referring to an IP-cloud phone service where PBX functionality resides on an application server maintained by your service provider and is usually sold on a per-user-seat basis. Typically, with hosted phone applications, your provider also bundles the network call paths over which VoIP is carried. With the refinement of VoIP core-network technology over the past decade by the likes of Cisco, Argent, BroadSoft and Sonus,  the quality of VoIP has increased substantially. For that matter, the core of major IP networks, wherein transport, signaling and hosted functions  are provided, now operates at  levels of performance  comparable to traditional TDM networks. So why is VoIP still perceived to be inferior to traditional TDM services?

One major issue with hosted VoIP is often in the local network transport   – the Internet broadband connection –  and it’s usually the easiest part of the problem to solve. The problem may be as simple as insufficient bandwidth on your connection. With voice and data converged over the same facility, it stands to reason that your bandwidth, once used just for Internet data transport, must be increased to accommodate your hosted voice traffic. Yet, even if the bandwidth is sized correctly, there will be occasion when prioritizing voice packets will be necessary when they compete with your data packets for the same broadband pipe. A split second delay in a data download is usually more tolerable (and less noticed) than a disconnected phone call, which could occur with hosted VoIP with the exact same packet delay. Packet prioritization is usually accomplished by your LAN router.

In addition to pipe size and packet priority, the type of Internet broadband that you use will also affect your hosted VoIP quality. DSL, for example, is the most popular type of high speed Internet used by small businesses. DSL, however, is supported by a contention-based network. That means your packets, prioritized and sent successfully from you LAN over your DSL connection, still have to “contend” for transport onto the Internet once they reach the other side of the local DSL facility. If the DSL aggregation point (DSLAM) is experiencing a high load of your provider’s traffic, your packets will be delayed, and your hosted VoIP call degraded. It’s often that simple.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Your network connection may be it!

Top 10 Predictions for 2011

2011 will be an exciting year for the telecom industry, which will make strides in innovation and productivity, driven mainly by IP cloud-based services and wireless network enhancements. However, not all will be peaches and cream, as the industry will continue to experience change. Below are our top ten predictions:

1.      Thanks to the iPhone, its growing app’s, and, above all, the deployment of 4G networks, mobile will grab most of the industry headlines.

2.      In the wake of Craig McCaw stepping down as its chairman of Clearwire, the company’s performance will disappoint its investors throughout the year.

3.      Different variations of what we know as Unified Communications (UC) will achieve mass market adoption, along with other new IP based services. Increased productivity resulting lower costs and greater efficiencies will continue to drive the success of UC.

4.      Free VoIP offered by Skype and Google will gain greater consumer market share while value-added, business VoIP will be sold at a premium with excellent ROI.

5.      Broadsoft’s stock will decline by 50% from its 52 week high before it will climb again to new highs.

6.      Competitive pressures will force customer service standards to improve across all telecom sectors; people are fed up with inadequate automated solutions, broken processes, and unintelligible foreign accents.

7.      The FCC will obsess about net neutrality as its main focus and anything else will be a distant second.

8.      The Qwest and CenturyLink merger will encounter network integration issues resulting in service delivery problems to its business customers.

9.      In IPTV adoption, China will surpass Europe as world market leader.

10.    InfoStructure will experience its greatest growth year in its 17 year history.

Happy New Year!

Demystifying SIP


The telecom industry has a tendency to shoot itself in the foot. It seems that every time a revolutionary idea emerges, it’s given a technoid sort of name that confuses the general public. SIP is no different.

Everyone knows what an apple is. Not everyone knows that the apple belongs to the subfamily Maloideae of the family Rosaceae. Why? Because no one cares…there’s no practical reason or value in knowing. And besides, who remembers this scientific jargon?

Likewise, everyone knows what a phone call is. Most everyone now knows what the Internet is. Very few people know what SIP is. The fact is the telecom industry, once again, labeled a revolutionary Internet communications capability – SIP – an acronym (no shortage in the industry on these) that describes its technical function, not unlike T-1, MPLS, DTMF, SMDS…the list goes on forever. And once again, the telecom industry has managed to intimidate and confuse the very people who need what it has to offer!

So let’s demystify this SIP thing once and for all. SIP stands for session initiation protocol (bare with me…it gets easier), a signaling protocol used for controlling multimedia over the Internet. More recently it has become associated mostly with the protocol for Internet phone calling that we know as VoIP. SIP enables VoIP calls to be made by most new business phone systems that are connected to the Internet with a high speed facility – DSL, fiber optics, wireless, etc.  A “SIP trunk” refers to the call path from a business phone system over a broadband connection and through the Internet – an alternative way of providing phone calling rather than the standard landline. If a phone system is not SIP-enabled, phone calling is still made possible by placing a protocol converter between the phone system and the Internet connection.

One more thing – why use SIP? There a few major reasons:

  • Cost reduction – The savings over traditional phone lines can be huge!
  • Scalability – Easy to implement, program and use.
  • Universality – It speaks the language of the global Internet.
  • Receptivity – The future of communications will be SIP-driven.

SIP – It’s that simple…well, almost. There are more technical aspects to SIP, but these are the basics. But the fact remains – the concept should have been given a different, more creative name by the telecom industry that everyone understands. Telecom should probably emulate the creativity of, let’s say, the computer industry. After all,  everyone knows what an apple is, thanks to Steve Jobs.

Small Carrier, Big Value

Uncle Sam doesn’t like monopolies, theoretically. So in 1984, he broke up Ma Bell into small pieces after she became too big and too controlling over a century of operation. The result was seven regional “Baby Bells” plus AT&T. Uncle Sam, wanting more competition, also kicked the door open for new comers in the industry with the idea that more is better, and we witnessed long distance companies like MCI and Sprint become large corporations over night. In 1996, he was at it again by prying open the local exchange (dial tone service) to competition, which gave rise to a new breed of carrier – the CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier), like TCG and MFS. To keep the Baby Bells whole, Uncle Sam let them play in the long distance industry, and he let the cable companies play in all of it. Around the same time, wireless companies were building their cells throughout the US, exceeding all subscriber growth projections. Shortly, there were thousands of telecom companies in the US providing some type of voice, data or video service.

From then to now, many of these companies –  wireline and wireless, voice and data, including all of the Baby Bells and AT&T, have consolidated, resulting in the majority of the US telecom services market, once again, being controlled by a few, like Verizon and  AT&T. Ironically, all of these large mergers and acquisitions were sanctioned by yours truly – Uncle Sam. The regional, mid-size carriers have become virtually extinct, leaving mainly the smaller ones that have managed to survive. The telecom industry has come full circle and, no doubt, it’s healthier today than a quarter-century ago.

However, as much as size has worked to the competitive advantage of the industry giants, in many ways it has also encumbered them. With consolidations come large scale integration of systems and processes, employees and corporate cultures, networks and technologies, which can take many years and lots of resources to complete. At the same time, a faltering economy hasn’t helped them to keep stride with competitive pressures as well as the demands of an increasingly cost-conscious consumer and tech-savvy enterprise. In addition, the monolithic bureaucracies that have emerged to help structure these large organizations have also weighted them down. As we learned from the Ma Bell phenomenon, size and muscle come with a price, and it’s often the small  business and consumer that ultimately pay.

By contrast, many small carriers have not only survived the industry consolidations over the past several years but have thrived because of them. The sheer force of the large competition has compelled the small carrier to fine tune its internal and external strengths, cut costs and increase efficiencies, pay closer attention to the customer, enhance its value proposition and competitiveness, and ultimately capitalize on its smallness. And as Mark Twain once said, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.”

The fact is there are many advantages in doing business with a small carrier. Below are the major ones:

  • Great Prices – Unburdened by huge overhead and capital requirements, the small carrier is usually able to offer the most competitive prices to its customers.
  • Highest Quality – This is, perhaps, the most misunderstood claim. After all, how can a small carrier offer the highest quality of service, equal to that of a capital-rich telecom giant? It’s simple: Small carriers buy “best-in-class” network services from the largest carriers on a wholesale basis and then resell them to businesses. In this way, the quality playing field is kept level.
  • Responsiveness –  With minimal departmental layers and red tape, the small carrier can usually address customer needs on a real time basis.
  • Flexibility & Customization – Smaller carriers are generally not shackled by systems or processes. How many times have you been told by a large telecom, “I’m sorry but the system won’t let me change this price.” Or “I can’t add that service feature because it’s not in the system.” Small carriers are more apt to customize prices or services or both.
  • Personal Touch – A small carrier often knows its customers on a first name basis. Doing business with a small carrier, therefore, takes on more of a personal dimension.

Like everything else, the telecom industry will continue to morph, and small carriers will need to adjust. With the proliferation of IP (internet protocol), new IP  network technology, now offered at affordable prices for small carriers, is making it easier than  ever before for a small carrier to differentiate itself with value added services, like those in unified communications, and be all-the-more competitive with the industry giants. For those of us with a few gray hairs who have been in the industry for awhile, it looks a little like 1984 all over again!

Faxosaurus

During its time, the dinosaur, with its size and  power, probably seemed to be the least likely candidate for extinction. We might say the same for the traditional fax machine – a long lasting and reliable technology possibly approaching its departure.

Alexander Graham Bell, a Scotland born inventor credited with inventing the telephone, hadn’t taken his first breath of air yet when another Scottish inventor, Alexander Bain, filed a patent for the first fax machine in 1843. That’s the kind of staying power the fax machine has enjoyed over time! Like the telephone, telegraph, television and every other “tele” invented over the years, the fax has morphed and evolved but, unlike its “tele” counterparts, its simplicity of purpose has remained largely the same – electronic transfer of content, as reflected on a document, from point A to point B, usually through a plain old phone line.  It’s one of those traditional functions, like the wooden telephone pole, that has so steadily served business communications for so many years that you could hardly imagine it not being around.

But in an age of innovation and web technology, when speed and efficiency are paramount, this time is different. The fact about traditional fax is that despite its reliability and survivability, it has become…well, clunky in today’s modern enterprise. The traditional fax machine takes up office space, it sucks electrical power, and it consumes employees’ time to operate it, which translates into expense. The speed of traditional fax technology is sort of like the Pony Express mail delivery compared to today’s split-second delivery over the Internet.

Today’s emerging fax technology, known as Internet fax or simply efax, is a server-hosted application provided as a service to businesses for a monthly fee, which varies depending upon its total capabilities and how it is packaged. The following advantages of efax are significant:

  • Transmission Speed – Internet faster than the old phone lines.
  • Multitasking – Send & receive multiple efax  transmissions at once.
  • Natural Resource Savings – Less consumption of paper & electricity.
  • Human Resource Efficiency – Saves employees’ time sending/receiving documents.
  • Phone Cost Reduction – No phone lines needed.
  • Long Distance Savings – Goes over your Internet.
  • Mobility – Fax by cell phone.
  • Equipment & Space – No equipment to install; no office space to waste.

Despite the longevity and reliability of the traditional fax machine, there are too many compelling forces riding against it. There’s no doubt that it will eventually take the path of the dinosaur.

The SIP Surge

SIP trunking continues to steal the headlines in the world of VoIP phone services, but it represents only a fraction of the total business trunks in service today. So why all the hype about SIP?

SIP (session initiation protocol) experienced slowness in its early adoption stage, which is not unusual considering that legacy TDM solutions have been generally reliable and around for a long time. SIP has had to earn its place in the network domains of the small and medium enterprise, and that’s exactly what’s happening! The fact is that despite a sputtering economy, SIP trunking deployments doubled last year, making it one of the best performing VoIP services. And according to industry sources, the SIP trunking market in North America, which closed 2009 at $717.3 million in revenue, is projected to grow to $3.9 billion in revenue by 2016. That represents a seven year surge in growth of 544%!

You may ask, “What’s driving the SIP trunking market?”

It’s already an overly exploited VoIP industry term, but it still holds the promise of SIP – convergence, the ability to bundle voice and data on a high speed Internet facility. With TDM, a PRI or T1 provides up to 23 and 24 channels respectively, which for the large enterprise may still work well, but for the small and medium business, trunk capacity is a cost issue for which SIP trunks provide an economical solution. Simply stated, bundling eliminates phone lines and associated costs. And since SIP trunks can be ordered one at a time and then over-subscribed per number of phone stations, SIP becomes an even more attractive cost saver. Taking it yet another step, for businesses with multiple locations, SIP may be configured as centralized trunking that leverages the Internet cloud for inter-location traffic – another cost benefit.

Finally, SIP is a foundational service of other emerging business VoIP services, such as UC (unified communications). UC represents the latest in integrated IP services like instant messaging, presence information, IP telephony via PC as well as IP phone, video conferencing and speech recognition – all subjects of our future blog posts!