Privacy and How to Lose It By Melissa Swartz

I live in Kansas City, which was the first city selected by Google to roll out the Google Fiber service that offers Gigabit Internet connections and TV for (often) less than what other providers charged for 15MB Internet and TV. I have seen Google Fiber signs in front of many residential houses during the deployment, and now they have a small business offering.

One of the big local news stories this week is AT&T's announcement that it will be offering its new U-verse with GigaPower service, with features and pricing that are quite similar to the Google offerings.

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Does the Cloud Services Deployment Model Need to Change? By Melissa Swartz

As I attend industry events, I hear many companies saying that their cloud businesses are growing fast and often account for significant revenues. Yet out in the real world I've seen the struggles that user organizations go through when deploying these services.

Many of those opting for cloud services are small to mid-market organizations. Often they don't have a lot of internal expertise (which is one of the reasons that they are going to the cloud in the first place). They love the idea of simple and quick deployments, with cloud providers taking on the heavy lifting afterwards.

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Number Porting Insanity By Melissa Swartz

I have been working on several projects lately, large and small, that involved porting of numbers from one carrier to another. The process is highly regulated, and there are time frames for each step of the process. It should all be very predictable and well defined.

But it's not.

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Mind the Gap: Technology Upgrades By Melissa Swartz

If you've ever taken a trip around London on the Tube, you might recall that at subway stops, a recorded voice tells passengers "mind the gap" when the doors open, to remind everyone to step over the gap between the train and the platform. (It makes me wonder how many people stepped into the gap before the voice reminder was there.) Because the recording plays at every stop, for me during my travels, the voice reminder eventually became background noise, and I was no longer consciously aware of hearing it.

In a similar way, I think that many professionals in our industry have become so accustomed to new technology that companies create, sell, and deliver, that we don't recognize that there is a gap between what is normal for us communications folk, and what is normal for "everyday people."

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Communicating with Communications Companies is Absurd By Melissa Swartz

It's no secret that some of the largest companies in the communications industry don't really communicate very well with their customers. Here are a couple of examples that fall under the heading of "You can't make this stuff up":

And then there's this chat conversation with a different company, which has been edited for brevity:

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Going UCaaS: How to Choose the Right Option for You By Melissa Swartz

We are all hearing that the cloud is the future, and unified communications as a service (UCaaS) is certainly a high growth area. If you have done your research, see the value of the cloud for your unique enterprise, and are thus considering moving your business communications to the cloud, how do you get there? The market is flooded with options -- how do you decide? How do you narrow down the choices to a more manageable select few?

The answer depends, in part, on why you are moving to the cloud in the first place. There are several reasons that organizations often make this decision:

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3 Tips for Comparing Complex Communications Solutions By Melissa Swartz

One of the major trends that I saw at Enterprise Connect 2018 was the evolution of offers from a variety of separate tools to more fully integrated solutions. There certainly is a need for fully customized, build-your-own UC or contact center capabilities; however, many organizations prefer to utilize a solution that has already been built (especially if there is a way to tweak it to better meet their needs).

I'm working on a project right now where the organization needs telephony, contact center, mobility, conferencing (audio and video), document sharing, the ability to host medium (250 attendees) and large (1,500 attendees) webinars, and a team collaboration capability (whew!). All of these tools fall into the larger category of "communications," but clearly, they are quite different from one another. My client wants a solution that meets all of these needs now, with the flexibility to evolve with the company into the future as its needs change and grow. And if the questions that were asked during Enterprise Connect sessions are any indication, they are not the only ones in such a situation.

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Getting Technical with Cloud Migrations By Melissa Swartz

At Enterprise Connect in March, I presented a session about avoiding the "gotchas" in a cloud migration. There were five panelists who discussed the issues with me, and who had some great advice for the audience:

  • Mehdi Salour, SVP of network operations and DevOps at 8x8
  • Skip Chilcott, global head of product marketing at IR
  • Curtis Peterson, SVP of cloud operations for RingCentral
  • Jamshid Rezaei, CIO at Mitel
  • Chad Elford, global director product management, business collaboration - UCaaS solutions at Tata Communications

Cloud's Network Impact

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5 Keys for Successful End User Adoption By Melissa Swartz

Last week, my cell phone screen went blank and wouldn't come back. I had knew that the time to replace it was coming, but this forced the issue. I got a new phone, and then had to deal with the transfer of contacts, calendar, and all of the useful data that makes the phone an effective tool for me. While I didn't choose to make this change, once things were put into motion, I was fully in control of the process. Yet it was still unsettling to be without a comfortable and essential tool for a while, and it's been an adjustment to learn how to use the new one.

That experience is similar to what many end users go through when their organization moves to a new business communications solution, except that the end users typically don't control the process. The change is forced on them and they just have to deal with it.

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How Microsoft Is Innovating in Collaboration By Melissa Swartz

The judges for the Best of Enterprise Connect Award program reviewed 62 entries -- entries that spanned a variety of segments in the enterprise communications space, such as contact center, conferencing, management tools, team collaboration, emergency notification, speech analytics, and beyond.
There were some very innovative solutions. However, in my opinion, nothing matched the breadth of capability and vision demonstrated by Microsoft’s entry for Teams, which included the Teams for Firstline Workers (also known as frontline workers) and enhancements to the “intelligent workspace.”

5G: The Promise and Impact By Dennis Goodhart

There is an old Chinese saying that goes, "May you live in interesting times." Certainly, anybody involved in the enterprise communications technology field would have to agree that we are indeed living in not only interesting, but complex times.

Arguably the most immediate impact on your network and business in the next several years will be 5G. If you believe everything you read and hear, 5G is the panacea that will solve all of your communications problems. In my last No Jitter post, I wrote about the promise and potential of 5G and the technology behind it. Let's look at what has transpired over the past six months. (Please remember this is not a technical update on 5G but more of a "heads up" as to what is coming your way.)

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Making Sense of Blockchain, Bitcoin By Dennis Goodhart

By now I'm sure you have heard of Bitcoin, and may even be kicking yourself for not buying and getting in on the ground floor. The technical term for what Bitcoin is, is known as cybercurrency or cryptocurrency. And while you may debate the merits or risks of whether or not to invest in this type of commodity, there is actually a very interesting and rather unique technology that was developed specifically for Bitcoin that is now being look at for other types of data network transport and transactions. This article will explore the technology behind cryptocurrency and the implications this type of technology may have upon your next-generation infrastructure.

But first, to better help understand exactly how this technology works, and to satisfy those who are curious as to what cryptocurrency is all about, a little primer.

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Getting a Contact Center Implementation Right By Dennis Goodhart

In my last No Jitter post, "Digging In to the Contact Center Obsession," I discussed the impact, influence, and necessity of contact centers in today's business world. Now, with the help of my associate Cheryl Helm (fellow SCTC member), it's time to take a practical look at critical factors to consider when implementing a new contact center or migrating to a cloud or hybrid contact center.

As consultants, we adhere to a very strict code of ethics that, among other practicalities, ensures our vendor neutrality. So, for this article no specific vendor names will be mentioned, although some examples cited may be vendor specific.

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When to Turn Your POTS into PANS By Dan Aylward

Incumbent Local Exchange Providers (ILEC) are not shying away from moving services away from the legacy Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) ... nor should any No Jitter readers be surprised of this enormous network phase out. However, this does beg the question "When should you disconnect all of your Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) and move to the Pretty Amazing New Stuff (PANS)?"

Voice over IP (VoIP) and cellular are established options for voice communications and the most used form of communication whether we like the Quality of Service (QoS) or not. But what about essential analog services that are not used for voice? Let's address some examples.

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IoT: Connect Everything, Segment Everything By Dan Aylward

We live in a world in which new technology solutions seem to emerge every day -- and the pace of innovation is rapidly accelerating. In 2017, we saw tech game-changers like self-driving vehicles, artificial intelligence, and Internet of Things (IoT) really start to take off.

IoT, in particular, is a major disruptor in the telecommunications industry, enabling devices and sensors to 'talk' to each other without human intervention. IoT is being leveraged practically today, for example, to monitor moisture levels in soil or to trigger an alert and video stream when someone rings your doorbell. A consumer may be walking by a retail shop and receive a custom sale alert to his or her smartphone -- this is IoT in action.

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Help! They're Taking Away My POTS! By Dan Aylward

A funny thing has happened while we've all been paying attention to VoIP and SIP trunks. Those plain old telephone service (POTS) lines have suddenly become expensive circuits, and we don't have a bulletproof solution to replace all of them.

This is sort of like figuring out who you're going to ask to the prom. You spend your time and attention on the captain of the cheerleading squad, figuring you can count on the girl next door if that plan doesn't work out. The only problem is you didn't get your date with the cheerleader, and now you discover that your backup isn't available either!

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Why Do I Need a Desk Phone? By Dan Aylward

"Tell me again why I need a desk phone?" Such is the question I heard last year from a client after building up the value of using a communications technology consultant.

We were there to assist in designing the company's network infrastructure, redundancy, and business continuity plans. We discussed Wi-Fi coverage, cellular usage and needs, PRI contractual commitments, and features of the installed phone system. And after all the discussion, I got a polite but perplexed look asking the desk phone question.

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6 Secrets of Telecom Cost Reduction By Dan Aylward

Some of my peers aren't going to like me for giving you this information. These are the secrets I've learned and refined over the years working as a communications consultant on behalf of my enterprise clients. You'll find some of these tips are not rocket science, nor do you need a doctorate or even a specific skill set to accomplish them. But like anything worth doing you have to have an objective, and accountability to see it through.

There's a quote in the Bible I really like: "If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success." So, I hope this helps you sharped your ax!

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The Great Desk Phone Dilemma By Dan Aylward

I received a curious question from a client last year after being engaged by the company for communications technology consultancy services. We were there to assist in designing the company's network infrastructure, redundancy, and business continuity plans. We discussed their Wi-Fi coverage, cellular usage and needs, PRI contractual commitments, and features of their phone system. And after all the discussion, I got a polite but perplexed look from them, asking this question: "Tell me again why I need a desk phone?"

And I thought, "Wait a minute...this is a GOOD question."

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States Continue Down Convergence Path By Howard Feingold

For today's state governments, with their many agencies, vastly distributed field offices, and multiple networks, the integration of voice, video, and data into a single statewide network promises lower costs, improved collaboration, and enhanced security. But fragmented and often incompatible technologies, complex support requirements, and disparate policies and procedures across agencies are among the many challenges that can hinder the realization of these promises.

In this article, I explore how convergence of voice, video, and data into a single network can overcome these challenges.

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