Over the past few years I have been a guest on the IMI-TechTalk radio show, hosted by Tom D’Auria, a number of times. TechTalk is broadcast on KFNX AM 1100 out of Phoenix, AZ, but you can also listen to a live stream of the show via the Web as well. Tune in at 6pm Eastern / 5pm Central on Sundays to listen to the show live. If you miss the live show, you can check back on the IMI-TechTalk blog and find a link to the recorded MP3′s to download after the fact.
That brings me to my most recent guest appearance. It was impromptu on about 30 seconds notice. There was some time zone confusion with the scheduled guest of the IMI-TechTalk radio show. I received a phone call in the middle of the show while Tom was live on the air asking me to step in and do the live show impromptu. So, I jumped on the air and host Tom D’Auria and I proceeded to discuss unified communications. Specifically, we talked about how unified communications pays for itself and can help companies save money, as well as how it fits into business continuity plans and preventing or responding to a pandemic outbreak or any other disaster.
You can play the downloaded MP3 of the show from the link on this blog post: IMI-TechTalk: Business Continuity and Cost-Cutting With Unified Communications.
When the economy was booming and things were looking up, eBay decided to diversify by purchasing the online VoIP provider Skype. Times are more troubled now and there have been talks recently that eBay may put Skype back on the market. There are also rumors that the founders of Skype may want to buy their baby back and develop its potential better than they feel eBay has done.
They may want to hurry up with dumping Skype because they are about to face some serious competition from Google Voice. This article details some reasons that Google Voice may beat out Skype head to head such as:
- Routing and forwarding re-defined
- A new definition of ‘call screening’
- On the fly switching
- Read your calls
- The Google god
You can check out How Google Voice Can Kill Skype to get the details behind those bullet points and find out whether Google Voice may signal the end of the Skype era.
If you’re like me, you may not have heard of the IP Sizzle conferences, but this is the 6th time the event is being held. According to the press release the IP Sizzle conference is for:
technology resellers and integrators in the space of phone, data networking and CCTV. In addition to technical presentations, IP Sizzles 2009 also focuses on key business aspects and sales skills to succeed in today’s challenging economy. The overarching themes this year will be Unified Communications and Video for SMB. Last but not least, the show covers many areas where IP Technology can reduce client’s service bills which allow many systems to quickly pay for themselves.
If you happen to be in Dallas or Miami in August, it may be worth checking out and seeing what is new and coming on the horizon for IP communications.
Unified communications is full of promise. However, without a shift in the underlying culture of communications and how communications integrate with and enhance business processes, unified communications is little more than bells and whistles on a marketing brochure.
Organizations need to do their due diligence and select a unified communications platform with the services and functionality they need. They need to consider how it will leverage or integrate with the existing infrastructure. They need to implement it properly. They need to ensure that the unified communications deployment is secure.
Does that cover everything? Let me think…..OH! They also need to actually train the people who are supposed to use and benefit from the unified communications. This is arguably the most important piece. If the end users are not aware of what unified communications can do for them, and if they are not trained to properly use the functions and tools in unified communications, then the investment in unified communications is more or less a waste of money.
A recent article in eWeek, How to Help Users Connect with Unified Communications, addresses this issue as well. Make sure that users are given the tools to make the most of unified communications, and the training to understand how to use it effectively.
Sipera Systems, a leading Unified Communications (UC) security provider, has formed a partnership with TrustNet to boost the secure handling of credit card data in enterprises that are deploying VoIP and Unified Communications.
Together, Sipera and TrustNet will offer enterprises the guidance and functionality they need to ensure that their VoIP and UC implementations are consistent with security best practices and support their efforts to achieve and maintain PCI DSS compliance.
Unified communications is still a young, emerging industry. In its short lifespan the number of players has quickly grown. One of the biggest companies in unified communications has been Nortel. The Canadian network hardware giant had a solid relationship with Microsoft and visions of grandeur of taking on Avaya and Cisco.
After filing for bankruptcy protection though, Nortel is apparently taking a look in the mirror and trying to return to a simpler time with a more aggressive focus on their core business- networking. So, they sold their wireless communications infrastructure business to Nokia-Siemens. Now they are apparently considering selling off their unified communications division with Avaya and Siemens-Enterasys being suggested as the leading contenders.
The consumer masses may be under the impression that social networking is comprised only of MySpace, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. What they are not aware of is that there are many other tools and sites that have come and gone. Many may even still exist, but they haven’t gained the popularity or reached that critical mass necessary to catch the attention of mainstream consumers.
Why is that? What does one social networking site do different than another that causes one to capture the imagination and explode onto the Web, while others fade into obscurity? In this post, The Zen of Twitter, that question is examined as it relates to Twitter. One thing I like is the list of specific things that Twitter has done which seem to be working for them.
A llloooonnnngg time ago (OK- it was 2 years. But, in tech-time that is an eon) Google bought a small company called Grand Central. The essential principle behind Grand Central was “one phone number for all your phones, for life.”
Grand Central has been adapted into what is now Google Voice. Google bought up 1 million phone numbers recently as it prepared to launch Google Voice to the masses. Earlier this week Google Voice began its public launch. Currently it is by invitation only (Google employed the same sort of social network marketing to create demand and build interest when it launched its GMail email service).
The central component remains the same as the principle behind Grand Central. Essentially you can have a single Google phone number which can ring to your home phone, mobile phone, work phone, or any combination thereof. As you move, change jobs, etc. your Google Voice number remains the same so you never need to update peers, friends, or family.
Google Voice offers a number of other useful features beyond single-number access though. You can receive voicemail in your email and forward or share it as you wish. You can customize which phones ring based on who is calling. You can establish different voicemail greetings depending on the group or individual who is calling. It also provides conference calling and call recording features, as well as the ability to switch between phones mid-call.
Google Voice is free (at least for now). As it is, it seems like it could be a sort of poor man’s unified communications for the budget-impaired. When you combine Google Voice with the upcoming Google Wave, it certainly appears that Google could put a dent in the unified communications market. Check out the Google Voice site for video demos of the features and functions. You can also click the link to beg for an invitation to the party.
You will be assimilated (for those perhaps not as nerdy as me- that is a Star Trek reference to The Borg).
That is sort of how new technologies work. Instant messaging went from IRC (Internet Relay Chat) used primarily by uber-geeks, to services like AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) embraced by consumers, and eventually to platforms like Microsoft Office Communications Server providing instant messaging capabilities in the enterprise.
Perhaps you can relate to this. I know people who rejected my overtures to connect on LinkedIn. They didn’t want to join and fought the tide. Then eventually I get an email asking me to join their LinkedIn network. Ironically, many of those same friends told me they refused to join Facebook. They already had LinkedIn, so what was the point? Fast forward a few months and I am getting Facebook friend requests from these people. Then it was Twitter. Now all of those people who said that they wouldn’t join the silly networking service that only allows 140-characters per message are watching how it has transformed International politics and media in the recent post-election protest violence in Iran and thinking “maybe there is some value to that after all?”
In fairness, there have been a number of lesser services that have not reached the popular acceptance of Facebook or Twitter: Plaxo, Spock, Friendster, etc. so I can understand approaching new technologies with caution or a healthy dose of skepticism. But, those that achieve the critical mass necessary eventually go from fringe uber-geek technology, to popular consumer technology, and then to a business tool embraced by enterprises.
There is some overlap though between the features and functions of some of these services and the functionality delivered by unified communications. Can social networking be leveraged as a ‘poor man’s unified communications’? Do enterprises have to choose one or the other? Or, will there be some sort of convergence of services that enable the two worlds to peacefully co-exist in the enterprise?
A recent report in the Wall Street Journal details the bust of a VoIP toll fraud ring in The Phillipines. According to the WSJ article:
A federal grand jury in New Jersey indicted three people Friday, including one man who has been linked to al Qaeda. The three suspects, who live in the Philippines, are accused of providing Pakistani nationals in Italy with access to stolen phone lines.
The same company that was used to pay the three hackers also financed the communications of terrorists in last year’s Mumbai attacks, in which a small group killed more than 170 people, people familiar with the matter alleged.
The group is alleged to be responsible for stealing 12 million minutes of phone service estimated to be worth $55 million.