Holiday Greeting 12/21/2011
Well it has been a while since my last blog.
With Huricane Irene and the snow storm Alfred it has been a crazy season so far. Also, we have been exceptionally busy for this time of year.
We are working on several exciting projects that I hope to blog about in the near future.
I hope everone has a safe and happy holiday.
Another Phone Hacking Concern 10/19/2011
There is an app for Smartphones that can capture passwords being typed on a keyboard that it is lying next to.
It may seem hard to believe, but by using the accelerometer and orientation sensors built into the phones the app can deduce with a 80% accuracy which keys are being pressed by the vibrations given off and the timing between key strokes.
Like hackers that lurk over your shoulder to grap passwords when you are using computer in public places, the Smartphone would have to be placed next to the keyboard that you are using. So it is unlikely that a hacker would have access to your work or home machine.
However, it is just one more way for someone who wants to get at your private information to do so.
Satellite Internet 09/26/2011
Those of us who have just experienced Hurricane Irene were made painfully aware of the disruption to our business that can occur when there are significant infrastructure outages.
Extended loss of electricity, telephone and Internet make it difficult or impossible to conduct business and provide services to our customers.
Generators can provide temporary power, but computers may be severely handicapped if they cannot connect to the Internet. Those companies that have switched to “hosted” or “cloud” computing may be completely out of service.
With these realities in mind, some companies are looking to alternative paths to the Internet, either as their primary means or for backup. One option is satellite. In the past the cost for satellite Internet has been a barrier, however, the cost has come down. Another benefit is availability. Satellite is available anywhere there is a clear path to the geostationary satellite in the sky, whether that be on land or sea.
I am not necessarily recommending satellite as the primary path to the Internet, but as companies are looking to put together redundancy plans for continuous operation, satellite could be part of the solution.
Good Night Irene 09/07/2011
Well it has been a busy 2 weeks here in the Northeast. While Irene was not as bad as we thought it might be, it did cause a lot of damage to the utility infrastructure.
We had quite a few of customers that just got power restored in the past few days. Beside the obvious problems that the disruption of power and Internet caused to the business community, a lot of the the older telephone systems cannot maintain their programming through a prolonged power outage. This means that they will need to be reprogrammed from scratch.
Everyone in the telecommunications industry is working very hard to restore full operation to their customers, but it will be a while before there is a real sense of normalcy.
Thankfully, it looks like Katia will miss the Northeast, so we will not have a repeat of Irene just yet.
Thoughts on Hosted VoIP 08/22/2011
Hosted solutions are hot right now. Just like cereals, soaps and shampoos always have to come out with new and improved versions of their products, so too do technology companies.
The latest is “hosted” solutions. Hosted or cloud computing and hosted VoIP telephony services are being touted as the best thing since sliced bread.
From a telephony perspective, I find it interesting because the concept of a hosting in the telephony world is not new. The phone company has been offering Centrex service for decades, in fact they still do. With Centrex, customers would in essence, rent space in the Central office PBX. Each user would have their own 10 digit telephone number that would ring directly on their telephone. Users could “intercom” each other by dialing the last 4 digits of the desired telephone number in the network. Calls could even be transferred to off-site locations.
In its day Centrex was quite advanced. It offered features that were not available anywhere else. However, it did come at a cost. Like hosted VoIP, Centrex was basically a rental. Each telephone number cost subscribers a monthly fee and did not include long distance toll charges, which back then were quite significant.
On the plus side, there was no equipment on-site, which in theearly days of PBX’s took up quite a bit of space and required significant air conditioning and electricity to operate. But, a small company with say 20 to 40 employees would spend the equivalent of a new phone system every few years for the cost of Centrex service.
With the advent of digital PBX telephone systems, however, with their small footprint, built-in features and lower operating costs the Centrex model of a telephone number for each employee didn’t seem to make sense.
That brings me back to hosted VoIP service. It is basically Centrex over the Internet. In my opinion, the economic model is the same, a monthly rental for equipment and now included telephone service for each employee. However, on-site digital PBX equipment can offer the same or more features, with significantly lower operating costs.
But to me, the biggest misconception is the implementation of hosted VoIP over existing Internet connections. There are some companies claiming to save users thousands of dollars a year by using their existing broadband Internet connection to also provide hosted VoIP service.
Remember the old adage: “If it seems too good to be true….. it probably is”. In my opinion, hosted VoIP service should be delivered over a dedicated T1, use quality routers from name manufacturers, have quality IP phones, not low cost knock offs and have a hosting company that can prove redundant capability and offer quality support staff.
Telephones are a mission critical system to any business. Yes, we all want to save money wherever possible. But when there is a problem with the telephone, the savings seem less important. So, save money prudently, not foolishly.
Telephone System Security 08/16/2011
Hacking is not just limited to computers and data networks. While credit card theft and breaking into Pentagon computers gets all the attention, telephone systems are targets as well.
Why would someone spend their time and energy hacking into a telephone system you ask? What is in it for them?
Well, it can be big business. The world wide cost of telephone hacking or phone Phreaking, as it is known, is estimated to be upwards of 80 billion dollars per year. It is attracting the attention of organized crime and is very sophisticated. Once hackers gain entry to a telephone system they can program it to allow outside users to make calls through the system and avoid long distance phone charges. This availability can then be sold to many other users who rack up large phone bills for the victim.
Another scam is to program the telephone system to call “1-800” numbers that actually carry very high call rates. Sometimes the rates are as high as several thousand dollars per minute. These companies are usually in countries that do not regulate telephone carrier rates and are outside the jurisdiction of the United States.
Like credit card theft, AT&T and other carriers used to absorb these charges as a cost of doing business, but lately they have changed their policies. If your telephone system made the call, then then you are responsible for the charges.
So, the lesson is to be vigilant and be aware or you normal billing patterns. If you notice a significant change in your monthly bill, dig deeper. There are call accounting programs that you can install on most PBX telephone systems that will alert you to abnormal activity: calls over a certain amount and calls to certain countries, for example.
Remember always have users change their passwords from the system default setting. Criminals are opportunistic and go after low hanging fruit. They are looking for easy access and will often move on to the next target if they are blocked.
Hard Phone vs. Soft Phone 08/11/2011
These days there are more choices than ever in the type of telephone to choose from.
Those of us who remember rotary phones know that there was a time that phone sets were like Model T Fords: your choices were black, black or black! Then in the 1960s everything began to change. First there was touchtone, and then other features began to be added. Now phones are Bluetooth enabled, have USB ports and video conferencing.
Or you can eschew the phone entirely and go with a soft phone. As the name implies, a soft phone is entirely software based and resides on the PC of the user. A headset is used instead of a handset and dialing is done on the keyboard.
Why choose one over the other? Well, just as some people prefer books to Kindles, some people prefer to use an actual phone. They like the telephone keypad (which is opposite to a computer keypad in layout) and they are used to the other features of the phone being on the phone itself.
However, if your job is primarily taking or making calls then maybe a soft phone is the way to go. If the PBX is linked to the company database and can bring up customer records on the screen for incoming calls or can dial customers telephone numbers from within the application, then a soft phone has advantages.
Also, the upfront and ongoing maintenance costs of a soft phone typically are less than a hard phone. On the other hand, a soft phone lives and dies with the host PC it is running on. If you have network problems or your PC needs to be rebooted, then you cannot make or receive calls until the network issue is resolved.
Just like any technology, there is a right and wrong application for everything. One size does not fit all. Analyze your needs by employee function and make purchasing decisions accordingly.
And remember, initial cost is not the only factor to consider. Look at the total cost of ownership over the reasonable life of the system.
Did you know that the squirrel causes the most damage to cable infrastructure, more than any other animal.
I wonder if it is linked to the new "green" plastics that are made with soy oil. For some reason they like to chew the insulation.
Maybe it is back to the drawing board for the cable manufacturers to make rodent proof cables.
FCC Consumer Complaints 08/03/2011
Are you being bombarded with telemarketing calls? Do you get the same junk FAX over and over? Have you tried to get your number removed from a list but your request is ignored? The FCC Consumer Complaints Division is there to help. You can file a complaint online, they will investigate and, in our experience, will get the offender to stop bugging you. Now, it may take a couple of months, but it will be done. You can even make a request for damages if you wish. The paragraph below explains all the areas of responsibility covered by this division. At the bottom of the page is a link which will take you to the form to file a complaint. Good Luck!
The Federal Communications Commission Consumer Policy Division is responsible for the development of consumer policy concerning Commission-regulated entities—common carrier, broadcast, wireless, satellite and cable companies—as well as other entities subject to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), CAN-SPAM Act, and other statutes for which the FCC has authority. Through rulemakings and orders, and by commenting on proceedings originated by other Bureaus and Offices, the Division ensures that consumer interests are considered in all Commission policy-making initiatives. The Division is specifically tasked with issuing orders to resolve complaints about unauthorized changes in telecommunications providers (slamming); conducting rulemakings on slamming, truth-in-billing, telemarketing, and fax advertising; and monitoring informal inquiries and complaints to identify trends that affect consumers.
The Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division provides informal mediation and resolution of individual informal consumer inquiries and complaints consistent with controlling laws and FCC regulations, and in accordance with the Bureau's delegated authority. The Division receives, reviews and analyzes complaints and responses to informal consumer complaints; maintains manual and computerized files that provide for the tracking and maintenance of informal consumer inquiries and complaints; mediates and attempts to settle unresolved disputes in informal complaints as appropriate; and coordinates with other Bureaus and Offices to ensure that consumers are provided with accurate, up-to-date information.
File a complaint
Shameless plug: Samsung MOBEX 08/01/2011
Connectivity is the latest trend in business communications. Everyone wants/needs to be connected to their office 24/7 by all means possible.
Email, SMS, texting, voice mail are just some of the ways people stay connected. Now, Samsung has another way, MOBEX, which stands for mobile extension in Samsung speak.
Now any telephone number can be made an extension in the OfficeServ 7000 series. Typically this is a cell phone, but it does not have to be.
Once programmed, calls to the PBX can be transferred directly to the MOBEX number as if it is connected directly to the phone system. This is a standard feature in the OfficServ 7000 family and a great value add for customers.
Executive MOBEX, which is a one time license fee, allows cell phones to access telephone lines in the PBX to make calls. This is useful for remote workers making long distance calls or for doctors that want to call patients from their cell phone without Caller ID showing the cell phone number.
Either way, MOBEX is an excellent addition to the connectivity arsenal.
For additional information check out the following link: MOBEX
Peter Barron has been in the telecommunications industry for over 30 years.