Do You Have Too Much Capacity? Find Out How to Save Money Monthly.

Recently, one of my customers signed a new dial tone contract with their carrier. The customer did a great job driving down telecom costs with this new contract but failed to take into account capacity. Their business has changed over the years and they were only utilizing half of what their contracted provided for. The small amount saved on the new contract pales in comparison to what would have been saved purchasing the proper capacity. Had capacity needs been analyzed the savings would have been around $12,000 annually.

When you are looking to drive down cost of your monthly phone bill is important to consider usage. There are tools to help you do this.  The link to one is below:

Erlang Capacity Calculator

If you are in the market for a new carrier or your contract will be expiring in the next 12 months please let me know. I am not only interested in saving you money, but also making sure you have the correct capacity for your business.

Accountability

Call accounting software collects and records call details, reporting on telecom usage, costs and activity. Call accounting software is more important than ever, accomplishing many necessary tasks.
The most important job of call accounting software is notifying you if your system gets hacked. The software will alert you to abnormal calling patterns helping to prevent abuse such as toll fraud. See my past article on toll fraud:
With the advent of SIP, call accounting software is a necessity. It can identify the peaks and valleys within call patterns, insuring you have the correct number of SIP trucks. This helps to reduce your overall costs, yet allows your calls to go through.
Another important use of call accounting software is allocating telecom costs among various departments within your organization. Tracking the number of calls each department places can allow for intra-company billing, ensuring each department pays for their usage.
Finally, call accounting software can also help measure employee productivity. The number and extension dialed, the time of the call, and call length can all be recorded. This information can be configured onto an innovative dashboard allowing you to quickly and easily view how productive your employees really are. Dashboards can be configured with a variety of graphs, call summaries or a feed of the details making it easy to decipher and to utilize the information.
As always, if you have any questions with regard to call accounting software or any other telecom issue please feel free to call or send me an email.

Communication Could Prevent a Crash

I am copied on every service order that my customers place. I briefly scan each one looking for patterns. If I see something reoccurring, with the same customer, I escalate the issue.  For one customer, the email was short: “They changed out the firewall and switch and the phones are not working now.”

In many cases, telephony solutions are engineered to achieve 99.999% reliability. And yet to maintain this level of reliability we need cooperation from the customer.  Just as human error shut down much of Amazon’s web services a few weeks ago, so to can this happen to your company. (http://fox6now.com/2017/03/02/human-error-amazon-broke-the-internet-with-a-typo/)

If you are making network changes it is important that they are documented. It is also important to discuss these changes with your telephony support team at BSB Communications, Inc.
If receiving calls is critical to your business, schedule time with our service department, before making changes to your network, just in case things don’t go as planned.

Don’t be the Victim of Toll Fraud

Toll fraud is real and happening often.  I have the advantage of working with several colleagues who have been in the telecommunications business since the early 1970’s.  They agree that our customers have never experienced this much toll fraud.

What is toll fraud? Traditionally, it is when an individual illegally gains access to a customer’s PBX and places telephone calls.  In the past, the “hacker” had to have specific knowledge about a business’s PBX in order to exploit its security weaknesses.  This knowledge had to be specific because all the phone systems were proprietary based.

Today the telephony world is working with an ever increasing number of standards. Most of the PBX’s today adhere to one standard or another. Now the hacker only needs to be able to exploit a single standard in order to have access to thousands of potential “hacks”. The carriers are also adhering to these standards. Consequently, your PBX is not the only opportunity for toll fraud to occur.

Adhering to the following security procedures will help protect yourself and limit your company’s liability:

1. Create strong passwords on any SIP device.

2. Ask your carrier how they plan on notifying you when a hack is suspected and how they plan to deal with the situation.

3. If possible, block international calls and document your request.  If not, contact your PBX supplier to discuss options on limiting your potential losses.

4. Purchase software that stores all of the telephone numbers your users call. Having this data will help you determine if the fraudulent call originated from your PBX or from your carrier’s network.

Toll Fraud is a real concern in today’s world and thousands of dollars of usage can be charged to you in less than a day!  Please see the article below on the damage that can be done.  As always, if you have any questions or would like to discuss further feel free to contact me.

ReMax office owner hit by phone fraud, $600,000 bill

 

 

 

Do You Have a Good Supplier or a Bad Supplier?

A recent survey I read stated that in some market segments up to 60% of customers are not satisfied with their VoIP system and service. The same survey stated that, in these market segments, before the advent of VoIP, PBX customers were 90% satisfied.
Why the high level of satisfaction in the past? Mainly, it was due to having a telephony solution designed end-to-end, by a single manufacturer, supported by a local team of trained engineers who understood telephony. Once a call left the building, the company’s dedicated telephony solution was connected to a dedicated worldwide voice network, utilizing strict telephony standards.
Today advanced VoIP platforms do so much more than platforms of yesterday and yet they are not architected like a PBX of the past.  So why are customers experiencing such low satisfaction? First, the barrier to entry into the telephony business is very low, allowing anyone with a business card, website and a desire to sell telephony solutions to compete for business.  Second, many organizations have internalized telephony support and moved away from their voice centric telephony suppliers, treating voice as just another application for the IT department to manage. In other instances, they have abdicated customer service to a hosted provider, with no local support. Concurrently, the hosted provider may utilize the “common” Internet for telephone calls.  I use the term “common”, because anyone with a connection to the Internet could potentially affect the level of satisfaction. Finally, today’s telephony solutions are architected to ride over the top of your entire shared data infrastructure of Wide Area Networks (WANS), servers, firewalls, LAN switches, cabling and in some instances the common Internet to deliver voice.  These telephony solutions are oftentimes connected to the outside world utilizing weak VoIP standards.  Any one of these components, or combination of the above components, including the levels of software within each component, can cause voice quality problems.
If communicating to your customers over the telephone is important, then how does a company today find the same level of past satisfaction?  Regardless of your company’s vision of how telephony solutions should be delivered, be that premise, hosted, or a hybrid of both feel free to give me a call so we can discuss how BSB is still delivering yesteryears level of satisfaction.
We run our business like your business depends on it.
Works Cited:
Timothy Colwell, “The State of IP Phone Satisfaction,” Telecom Reseller.

Are Your Calls Secure?

Are Your Calls Secure?
There are numerous reasons for deploying secure SIP. The primary reason is preventing fraud. Fraud comes in different forms including toll fraud or consumer based fraud. Consumer fraud includes gathering sensitive information from the call like credit card information. Another major concern might be government-mandated encryption. Simply being security conscience in wanting to keep conversations private is another valid reason. It is important to note that SIP need not be encrypted when delivered on a trusted network, for example MPLS from the carrier, unless you simply do not want your calls listened to.
A quick stroll through the Internet looking at various websites by different cloud- based suppliers informs me they are only telling half the story. Many cloud-based suppliers often tell you their service is encrypted with TLS (Transport Layer Security) leading you to believe your calls are totally encrypted. Naturally, you consider SIP security done.
If a cloud-based supplier is utilizing TLS you are only half encrypted. It is important to understand that the SIP standard divides the call into 2 parts. Call control and audio. Each part requires its own encryption method. SIP call control merely contains information such as inbound calling number, caller ID, hold, transfer, and various other metadata type information. This part of the call is the easiest to encrypt because it is not time sensitive like the voice part of the call. The voice/audio part of the call is called RTP (Real-Time Transport Protocol).  As noted in the definition of the call, real time, the packets cannot be delayed or improperly assembled making this more difficult to encrypt. TLS refers only to the SIP signaling leaving RTP totally unencrypted, allowing any knowledgeable hacker on your network, including Internet, to record and replay your calls with simple, free, commonly available tools.
If your concern is primarily to protect from toll fraud TLS is effective.  If your concern is one of the reasons noted above than TLS has done nothing to protect your organization.
Feel free to give me a call if you would like to learn more about deploying actual encrypted SIP.
Regards,
Craig B. Hodges
craig_hodges@gobsb.com
586-859-6308

Important News: E911 Legislation Delayed.

E911 Legislation Delayed 3 Years
E911 (Enhanced 911) means that when a 911 call is placed the caller’s phone number and specific location are delivered to the correct PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point or 911 dispatcher).  The local street address information will not be enough. Detailed telephone location information such as the building, floor, or room number must automatically be provided to the 911 dispatcher.
This pending legislation affects all businesses that operate a telephone system inside one or multiple buildings, buildings that share a single address, or are more than 7000 square feet. The new law was scheduled to be enforced beginning December 31, 2016.  It has been delayed, again, until December 2019.  Please note that it has been approved by both the House and Senate and is currently waiting for Governor Snyder’s signature.  He is expected to sign.
Please feel free to call or email if you have any questions regarding E911.
Craig Hodges
568-859-6308
craig_hodges@gobsb.com