Cisco IP telephone security problem

For our customers with Cisco SPA 300- and 500-series telephones ought to be aware of a security problem described here in Network World (Hat tip goes to Chris Watts of Tech Analysis). The Cisco advisory is here and states that, “Cisco Small Business SPA 300 and 500 Series IP phones contain a vulnerability that could allow an unauthenticated, remote attacker to access sensitive information. Updates are not available.”

If you are currently using these telephone models, be aware of the vulnerability, especially with remote telephones or telephones connected to a hosted or cloud-based service. Among Cisco’s recommendations:

  1. Enable XML Execution authentication in the configuration settings of affected devices;
  2. Check your firewall settings, though this will do little for teleworkers on premise and remote workers on cloud/hosted services;
  3. Consider using more stringent ACLs (or internally you can use MAC address authentication with DHCP-ed.) to restrict what gets into or on your network.
Cisco SPA 300 and 500 family

Cisco phones with the security vulnerability

This has happened before with Cisco telephones. Not to gloat, since we know that every system is subject to vulnerabilities at some point or another. But gloating is fun.

Mitel Number One for Cloud Communications

Mitel reports that they have won the top spot globally for cloud communications. The press release noted that Mitel has 850,000 seats worldwide, about 20% of the world total. Barely weeks later, Mitel blew through that barrier and announced its millionth seat in its press release from February 26.

I would add that Mitel, alone with Zultys, offers purely VMware hosted systems for the data center, just running circles around other competing solutions when it comes to deployment flexibility. We don’t have any hardware we require you to buy at all with Mitel, and we can utilize nearly all of the VMware tools your IT staff is using already on other applications, from vMotion to High Availability.

With Mitel we can provide a hosted, subscription based service that includes warranty, support, a phone number and phone service. We can host your system for you in our data center. We can work on your system in your data center. We can work on your system in your office in a traditional branded Mitel box. And, we can work on a hybrid of any or all of these options.

NEC SL1100 Desktop software

NEC SL1100 Desktop Suite

Unified Communications

If you are looking for an affordable, small business unified communications product on a premise-based system, We really like the NEC SL1100’s Desktop Suite. At a bare minimum, the Desktop Suite provides an excellent alternative to a plastic reception console next to the phone. This video from NEC provides an excellent primer on the software and its capabilities.

Zultys 36G IP Telephone Available Today

Now available from Zultys: affordable, functional gigabit telephony with the 36G.

Great new phone from Zultys: the 36G

Affordable Gigabit SIP telephony from Zultys

G’d Up From the Feet Up

Designed to replace the Zultys 35i and compete with the cut-rate gigabit SIP offerings from companies like Polycom, Snom and Cisco, the dual Gig port 36G is compatible with any SIP-friendly telephone system or hosted product. It works especially well with the Zultys MX250, MXSE, MXvirtual and Zultys hosted / UCaaS options.

36G LCD

The phone features a 3.7″ graphical display and 8 softkeys for choosing on-screen menu options. The screen is 240 x 120px and supports XML and an XML browser. In addition, the phone supports LDAP based contact directories.

But how many buttons does it have?

Replacing the paper button labels of primitive telephones, the 8 screen-adjacent softkeys are digitally labeled for up to 21 speed dials and features for ease of use and instant gratification when you make a change to your phone.

That is not enough buttons. I want all the buttons

Ok. We heard you. You can add up to 6 of the 340M expansion modules if you need yet more buttons. That can take you up to 228 LCD-labeled programmable keys. Keep in mind there are 11 dedicated feature keys AND a 4-way Nintendo-style directional pad with selection button AND 4 additional softkeys that let you navigate on-screen menu options. At some point we need to leave room on your desk for a coffee mug.

I am satisifed with the buttons. But what about how calls sound?

The speakerphone is full duplex for talking over each other on a call. Speakers are wideband HD. The audio is nothing less than exceptional.

Alright what does it cost

This phone is competitive with the Polycom VVX310. Contact sales@teamextenda.com for a quote.

What else?

  • 802.3af power over ethernet support – use off the shelf PoE components. Nothing crazy here.
  • Supports VLAN, DSCP, QOS
  • Paging, auto-answer support
  • Call park, pickup
  • Supports the Zultys EHS. The EHS is the Electronic HookSwitch. This is a device you can use to connect to a Plantronics, Sennheiser or GN Netcom/Jabra wireless headset so you can pickup and disconnect calls by pressing a button on your headset while you are away from your phone.
  • Find the brochure here

Zultys for Automotive Dealerships

The Zultys system is second to none when it comes to the auto industry. As this post points out, the Zultys feature set really addresses some key concerns of this vital sector of the Southern California economy.

Why auto dealers choose Zultys

Call Recording

The system has a built-in call recorder. This is ideal for documenting service requests and work approvals. It allows users to engage in conversations instead of passively transcribing notes. This also lets you cancel 3rd party call recording services that can cost thousands of dollars each month, and store all the recordings securely on site.

Call Reporting

Built in to the system, you have a full historical call detail program. This invaluable business intelligence can help auto dealerships gauge the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, audit their at times considerable phone bills, and monitor call traffic as well as employee productivity.

Auto Dialer & IVR

The Zultys has a built in automated dialing and playback system for confirming service appointments, confirming sales appointments, conducting customer service and satisfaction surveys, sending appointment reminders, and more – you can even customize the IVR to handle payments, provide status updates and handle any number of automated transactions.

Unified Communications for Auto

Real-time presence, status and messaging. The three hallmarks of Unified Communications (UC) are vital to auto dealerships and actually can help explain these features to people new to this technology.

Presence

Presence means seeing if coworkers are available for a call, email, meeting or otherwise around.

What UC Presence means

Per my Zultys MXIE: Brandi is off. Donovan is not plugged in. Anthony and Doug are ready.

Being able to see presence on a computer means I can get answers quicker without paging overhead, wandering the halls, or sending emails and leaving voicemails hoping for a callback.

For dealerships, being able to track down salespeople, sales managers, mechanics, finance personnel and even janitorial staff is critical. The purchase and repair processes are fraught with mistrust, risk and negativity. Quickly processing transactions can increase success rates and finding the right people and getting answers fast is a key to success.

Status

Status may seem similar to presence, but it dovetails in nicely with the Find Me / Follow Me features of the Zultys system so deserves a separate entry. Whereas Presence is about finding other people, Status is where I tell my team what I am up to.

UC Status on Zultys MXIE

I let my colleagues know what I am up to

The simple form of this is by simply picking a status and typing notes on this status. So, I am ‘Out of the Office’ and my note is ‘Back by 3pm’ which can be relayed to people trying to reach me or serve to let my colleagues know they can reach me via IM on the MXIE, text message or to talk to an alternative coworker.

Find Me / Follow Me in Zultys is triggered off rules I set for the status. I can decide that, based on my status, calls travel a certain way. So for example, if I am in the office but on the phone, my calls should go to voicemail. But if I am out of the office, my calls should go to my cell phone. The intuitive, flexible Find Me / Follow Me rules in the Zultys make cell phone integration very easy to implement. They also remove an expensive bone of contention with IT, who no longer has to micromanage call forwarding for each user, keep cell phone lists up to date, and learn the intricacies of a system forward.

MXIE UC Call Handling

Fine tune how your calls reach you based on your day

For auto dealerships, Status can help managers locate their human resources and make sure staff is on task. But the real power of the Status comes from sales personnel and repair staff to be able to shift calls around and take customer requests while they are in transit, between tasks, or in an area where they only have a cell phone available. It increases responsiveness and allows for a more productive use of time.

Messaging

Unified Communications (UC) messaging includes a few critical components.

Instant Messaging allows users to type in real time with each other, in case you had no idea. With Zultys MXMobile, this includes chat on mobile devices such as iPhones, Android phones and tablets, and iPads.

The advantage of moving to MXIE and Zultys for chat instead of using email, texting (SMS), or third party add-ins like Lync is that integrating chat into the phone system allows you to see all of your real-time communications in one place. Users can initiate a call, video session or chat, right from the desktop. You can also have voice messages and voicemail automatically initiate an email that can serve as a notification or as the actual message.

Vonage and Hosted Consolidation

Cloud Telephone System Consolidation Continues

SimpleSignal, a local (Dana Point) UCaaS provider, was purchased by industry giant Vonage and the press release is as fun as ever. Ah the acronym just rolls off the tongue: UCaaS (pronounced “you-cass” I believe), short for Unified Communications as a Service, which in this case is internet telephony plus a desktop software, smartphone or browser-based interface for your users. It is no less awkward to say than “VoIP” which rhymes with the “goit” in goiter, I suppose. Our industry needs a marketing overhaul.

Vonage, or rather the rebranded Vonage for Business, is gobbling up competing hosted commercial telephony providers left and right. Starting with Telesphere for $114M, a provider we represent and like very much, moving on to Vocalocity for $130M, who we had just signed up with, and now the aforementioned SimpleSignal, which has been bought for $25M, Vonage appears to be moving swiftly to combat hosted solutions from Mitel, Shoretel, 8×8, Five9s and every single telephone carrier.

Similar to our friends at Los Angeles-based j2 Global, Vonage seems to be intent on rolling up as many small, successful firms in their space as possible as valuations keep rising on cloud-based service businesses.

Similar to Telesphere, SimpleSignal pursued the ‘hosted plus dedicated circuit’ model where VoIP traffic is delivered over a dedicated data connection from your premise to the provider. By requiring a dedicated circuit, QoS is assured and

SimpleSignal by the numbers:

  • 1,600 customers
  • $11M in revenue (per Inc Magazine) or $20M in revenue per TMC
  • So, $573/mo per customer in revenue. Which seems high for the industry except we know that these guys push an MPLS circuit on their customers.
  •  $25M purchase price

If we assume each customer has a single $400/mo MPLS connection, monthly revenue from MPLS circuits is $7.7M (1,600 customers x $400/mo x 12mos). That is a low margin business, as the lines are leased wholesale from a Bell descendant.  The $400 is an estimate based on prices we see in Los Angeles, which tend to be lower than what we see in most US local markets.

Another critical assumption is that one MPLS circuit per customer. If you look at the customer list of SimpleSignal, there are a lot of chains and franchises. I am not sure that a small franchisee with two phones could be talked into getting a MPLS circuit but perhaps they didn’t have a choice.

A real advantage of the MPLS portion from a business standpoint, IMHO, is that you lock hosted customers into a multi-year contract. UCaaS and SaaS consumers are used to month to month or annual contracts – telling them that you would like to cast the agreement as a 2, 3 or 5 year agreement typically falls on deaf ears. I hear from customers that the technology is thought to be too new, and one feature of SaaS-type services is the low switching cost (I should say, a low perceived switching cost, as porting numbers to a new service, leaving SalesForce, or moving from Office 365 to Google for Business, for example, are all painful events). Long contracts negate this.

SimpleSignal customers

SimpleSignal customers

By comparison, Vocalocity in 2013 had 21,000 businesses and $28m in revenue. That works out to $111/mo per customer, which is works out to 4 seats per customer at $25/mo a pop plus the monthly extra charges for items such as an auto attendant and additional phone numbers. If you net out the estimated MPLS charge of $400/mo, you at $173/mo per customer or let’s call it 7 seats per customer. This puts SimpleSignal in the 11,000 seat range, or about half the size of Vocalocity in terms of seats. Home Depot alone has 2,200 stores and Domino’s has over 10,000 world-wide so I think it is reasonable to question the penetration into these accounts, though this is in the end a good thing for the new ownership.

Point of all this discussion is to keep sight of what the cloud industry looks like. Mostly small businesses – what used to be called SOHO (small office/home office) – focused on savings and on UC and PBX features previously unavailable to them. The real drivers of hosted adoption will continue to be the increasing cost of POTS lines and the ever decreasing cost per megabit per second of internet access. Now that phone lines are approaching $60 per month before usage in LA, it makes even less sense to keep traditional phone service in a small business.

Reviewing Mitel’s Q4 2014 Results

Mitel had a pretty good quarter.

Mitel is giving every indication that this is a company on the move, taking full advantage of its competitive strengths:

  • very strong cloud story, with a single software stream no matter how you deploy the system
  • a lot of options for direct manufacturer support for deployment, including vertically integrated, top-to-bottom provisioning of internet service, telephone carrier service, data center hosting, software development and manufacturing of internet phone systems
  • handsome looking telephones with more in the pipeline
  • great out of the box integration with popular applications such as SalesForce and Lync

From the highlight real of results, we are looking at Mitel:

  • Doubling their cloud seats to over a million
  • Posting $1.1 Billion in revenue for the year
  • Posting $57.9M in EBITDA for Q4
  • Posted $10M of honest-to-God GAAP profit. Pretty sure the competition did a double take at that.
  • And earning a 55.1% gross margin, a result many in any industry would envy. I know I do.

Overall, a pretty great result, even with top line revenues slipping 5% year-over-year. Mitel says currency effects are to blame. I think with the rest of the results looking this strong, they get a pass on that, though top line growth in a challenging market is, er, a challenge.

We will see if the economy picks up steam and Mitel translates that macro momentum into renewed top line growth, or if it is possible that – directly or indirectly – cloud seats are cannibalizing traditional PBX sales. My hunch is that they are, slightly, only because Mitel has refocused their attention on cloud. So yes and Mitel does not care, because the future of the company is in cloud. As soon as the phone industry turned into a software product, the pricing model needs to resemble that of software, which in 2015 means a SaaS model.

Hospitality Solutions

Unified Communications for hotels, motels, resorts and country clubs

For a lot of our customers, Unified Communications sells itself. When we show sales managers that they can instant message their sales reps from any device, or show customer service teams that they can see presence and status for coworkers scattered across different locations, they instantly see how it solves problems they have wrestled with for years. Whether the Unified Communications software is a Zultys MXIE, Mitel MiCollab or Phone Manager, or NEC Desktop Suite, the desktop solutions are as important – if not more so – than the phone systems they integrate with for many of our customers.

Some industries have been slower to see the benefits of a UC-enabled PBX or hosted telephony platform. Customer-facing verticals like medical, retail and restaurants feature employees that are not in front of a computer enough to take full advantage, though smartphone integration and electronic medical records are changing that perception.

Hospitality is another vertical where many key employees are not in front of a PC for much of their workday. However, with smartphones proliferating and healthy WiFi networks a requirement for most hotels and motels, things are changing rapidly.

VoIP Hospitality Solutions

The various phenomena of convergence and Bring Your Own Device architectures have suddenly made Unified Communications a productivity booster for hotels, motels, resorts and country clubs. SIP trunking especially with its unmetered (no charge) long distance and ability to scale up or down with a phone call can be a huge cost savings as hotels wrestle with declining use of the room telephones and seasonal swings in usage.

Motel solutions

Desktop software for front desk positions used to cost thousands of dollars. Nowadays, at least a basic version of UC software is practically thrown in with every system installed. Many motels only have a couple of system desk phones, which we can largely do away with now with smartphone apps that double as smartphones. This kills two birds with one stone – we can retire both the clunky analog cordless phones and extra deskphones and data cables scattered about.

Find Me/Follow Me features providing tight cell phone integration with the telephone system allow owners and security to maintain a connection to the front desk and provide for backup to reception if there is a guest emergency, a critical function for small motels with limited staff, especially at night.

Hotel solutions

Larger properties will offer guests additional amenities that benefit from UC. Mitel MiVoice Business systems will have built-in Property Management System (PMS) integration links and a host of hospitality features, from wake up calls to room status codes. Unified Communications software can enhance these further, providing guest services personnel (concierge, security, and valet, for example) with check in and out functionality so they can be located faster without a separate, disconnected walkie talkie system. Cleaning and groundskeeper personnel can similar be connected to the phone system and located instead of relying on a separate, parallel network of expensive, annoying high powered cordless phones or walkie talkies.

Another UC advantage for hotels is in offering collaboration, video and teleconferencing features for business centers to attract tech-savvy business travelers. We can provide cutting edge collaboration tools from Mitel and Zultys.

Mitel telepresence pictured for audio, video and web collaboration

Desktop sharing, video and audio with Mitel

Resorts and Country Club Solutions

These large campus environments actually stand to benefit the most from UC. In addition to all of the benefits listed above, we can set up virtual tenants on the Mitel system to provide as much or as little visibility between different individual groups and departments within the property as it makes sense for the business while saving on the initial expense of installing the system by avoiding duplication. Campus wide WiFi deployments from Extenda can be used to extend user presence throughout the property. Voice messaging integration with email can help increase the speed and ease with which messages are returned to better serve guests and members.

More commonly, multiple receptionists and operator positions alongside informal, small contact centers exist in parallel. Our Mitel UC solutions can cost effectively give these users the tools they need to get the job done. We can also layer in contact center features including social media outreach and web chat to provide additional features and functionality for providing a superior guest experience and keep up those Yelp, twitter, TripAdvisor and other online reviews.

Aruba acquired by HP

Our favorite wireless access point (WAP) manufacturer Aruba announced this morning that they are going to be purchased by HP.

In the $2.7B transaction, HP bolsters their position in networking with one of our favorite product lineups. Aruba’s wireless products are very easy to configure and use. The Aruba controllers offer great BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) capabilities for dealing with the dozens of devices users are bringing into and connecting to corporate WiFi networks.

You can view the press release here.