Put BYOD to work for your organization


May 15, 2013

This month is the 40th anniversary of the first mobile phone call. In 40 years, cellphones have gone from being a ‘brick’ that had just 35 minutes of talk time (and took 10 hours to recharge) to being something most businesses don’t want their employees to be without.

Laptops also fall into that category and tablets are starting to as well. And instead of using corporate-owned devices, the increase in IT consumerism has led to many employees preferring to do their job on the device of choice.

This shift has led some proactive organization to introduce  bring your own device (BYOD) programs.  Whether it be laptops, smartphones or tablets, BYOD offers many benefits, such as greater innovation, better work-life balance for employees and improved productivity.

But BYOD also increases the pressure on IT departments to manage and secure devices and data across multiple platforms. Security used to be about creating a network to keep people out; but as the lines between personal and professional lives continues to blur, security is now about letting people in. 

If you’re considering a BYOD program, start your policy planning by answering these four questions:

1.     Why do you want your employees to BYOD? Reasons range from potential cost savings for the company to improving productivity and accommodating flexible work styles. 

2.     What are the devices being used for? Simply checking the occasional email requires different features and security than accessing corporate data and services.

3.     What will the device have access to? Allowing personal devices to connect to company data and network resources means things like forced passwords, the ability to remotely manage devices, do updates and neutralize lost devices are a must.

4.     What type of devices are employees allowed to bring? Smartphones require different IT solutions than tablets and laptops.

BYOD comes in a variety of shapes and sizes – from the occasional use of personal devices as a supplement to daily activities to completely replacing corporate-owned devices, and everything in between. There is no one-size-fits-all solution so it’s important to plan carefully and put into practise the right systems, policies and security measures.



Telecom Growth Outpaces GDP


April 27, 2013

Market research firm Infonetics, reports that the telecom market continues to outpace the global GDP. 

With global GDP at 3.3%, the telecom market grew by 4%.

In North America, where GDP growth was 2.6%, telecom grew by over 6%.

And in case you think the growth was entirely in the mobile market, that piece of the pie grew 4.3%

Equipment costs dropped by 10%, contributing to the higher volumes.



Manage Your Office With a Mobile Worker


April 9, 2013

For employees who are often out of the office, a mobile worker – which turns any phone into an extension of their office phone – keeps them readily accessible. Staff simply give out just one number – their office number – and calls always ring through simultaneously to their mobile device, making it easy for customers, colleagues and vendors to reach them wherever they are.

We stock both the Avaya IPO500 Office Mobile Worker and the Avaya BCM50/450 Find Me Follow Me; both of which are ideal and affordable solutions.

The Avaya IP 500 requires IP Office Preferred Edition or IP Office Advanced Edition, Voice Compression Module (VCM) Channels when using IP wireless and Microsoft Exchange when using Email Reading. It offers many call handling features that are available in office, including the ability to create and manage conference calls.

The Avaya BCM50 is a scalable platform for businesses that have no more than 44 users. It offers powerful applications, an easy-to-use hardware platform and many unified communications features. It integrates voice and data capabilities and IP Telephony gateway functions into a single telephony system. The Avaya BCM450 offers similar powerful applications but is a scalable platform for businesses that have between 30 and 300 users.

With either of these systems, anyone can easily roam throughout the building, warehouse or offsite and still be connected as if they were at their desk. Contact us today to find out how you can put one of these workers to work for you.


Telephone Switching is the True Magic

March 19, 2013

All the credit for telephones usually goes to Alexander Graham Bell, who perfected the transmission technology which allows sound to be transformed into electrical signals, then back to sound. There were several other scientists working on the problem around the same time, and the breakthrough was inevitable.


But the true magic of telephones came later, when the ability to switch the signals to specific phones came into play. Remember, that at first phone signals were routed by an operator manually plugging a cable into a specific phone line.


Today, all of the complex features we value in phones – forwarding, voice mail, follow-me – reside in the switch. The phone transmission techniques have changed from analog to digital, but all the major advances have been in switching.


And telephone switching continues to evolve, as it has become a function of software rather than mechanics. Current thinking among manufacturers is that switches and phones may both become “dumb devices”, driven entirely by software – in the cloud, where it can be constantly updated, and where processing power isn’t limited by local equipment.


But businesses continue to want redundancy and local control, and it’s business needs that remain the major driver in this industry, rather than consumer needs for cell phones, for example. That means the evolution will be tempered beyond what technology can do, to match the risk tolerance needs of businesses. And that likely means hybrids. Which we haven’t seen yet. Consider that Featurecom’s fearless prediction.


North American Broadband & Network Trends

February 20, 2013


If you are in the telecom sector, you need to stay on top of what’s happening in the wired world of networks and broadband. The year end results show some interesting trends for the US & Canada.


But it’s not just the trends, but their implications we need to note. In the telecom world, there are two migrations over to broadband/network technology. The first is Voice Over IP (VOIP), the second is switching over IP, which is usually called hosted PBX. Canada continued to grow in broadband use – with some of the highest per capita use. The US has been ahead of Canada for a several years, but finally slowed down, holding steady.


What’s interesting here is that all of North America continues to lag behind Asia. In Japan, for example, average network speed is five times faster than in the US. Korea is right on their heels. Add in Singapore and Malaysia, and you’ve just identified all the countries where research and manufacturing of new phone systems is taking place.


This means that telephone technologies are evolving faster than the market will be able to keep up in North America. We still see companies shy away from VOIP simply because they don’t have the bandwidth. In Japan, where they invented VOIP, this isn’t an issue.

We will catch up, but at Featurecom we believe that the IP switching (hosted PBX) will be prevalent in the business world before there is full confidence in VOIP. Not so in residential, where it can be adopted by homeowners who have already invested in their network infrastructure. The economy hasn't been as good for businesses to make that same investment, but this will change as telecom technology drives network enhancements. 




Behavioural Changes Drive Telecom Sector

February 6, 2013


While Featurecom has been a leading player in the PBX market, we like to pay attention to the trends throughout the telecom sector. This helps us better understand the big picture, and know how to adapt.


The big picture this year is that we want more ways to contact each other. Here are a few of the major statistics from 2012 which caught our attention.


PBX market grew 5% in 2012Q1, then 6.4% for the whole rest of the year. This was despite predictions that the technology would start to fade and be replaced by a more mobile/cloud based alternative. But this was only in North America. And despite it being a US election year which usually dampens telecom results as everyone waits to find out who will hold office, and what their policies might be to encourage/inhibit spending.


In Canada, where we have a population of about 33 million people, there are 26.5 million mobile subscribers! To put this in perspective, that would mean a mobile phone for every person between 4 and 84 years old. Clearly that isn’t the case, so we are starting to want more than one mobile phone.


Cloud Hosted systems increased in 2012, but they didn’t cannibalize the sales of more traditional premise-based phone systems. Instead, they are being added – increasing options for companies.


These three shifts in what was expected, combine to signal a behavioural change – in a sector that has largely been driven by technology changes. People want more ways to communicate, and are recognizing the limitations and advantages of each, accepting them as part of an overall solution.


But the European scenario complicates this view, as all telecom markets “underperformed” analyst expectations. The degree of economic uncertainty in the EU is certainly a driver of this, and it has not bled over to Asia or North America. Asia has seen less of the behavior effect than North America, but also hasn’t been rocked by country-wide bankruptcies.


So it’s going to be an interesting ride in 2013. Here in Canada and the US, we can expect behavior as well as technology to play a major role in what lays ahead.



Going Global

January 22, 2013


The trends in the PBX market in 2012 can be pure head-scratchers, depending on what part of the world you live in. 


In North America, typically a year with a US election features an overall drop in telecommunications purchases, due to the uncertainty of who will be in government, and what their policies may be. Spending is usually deferred until after the election.

But that wasn’t the case this year.

And if North America is bucking the usual trend, seeing an increase when the market conditions suggest otherwise, then the rest of the world usually also sees boom times. Again, this isn’t what happened.

We’ll save a full debrief on 2012’s market fluctuations until our newsletter is out in a couple weeks, but thought it was interesting to point out these irregularities. The market continues to grow more complex to predict, and none of this seems to be due to telecom technology. 

PBX sales grew, VOIP grew, Mobile grew, Hosted systems grew…. The appetite for communications is increasing, as it seems consumers are no longer content with one main phone technology. Our behavioral changes are starting to catch up with the technology, and it’s going to be an interesting ride.




December 3, 2012


We’ve been following all the prophetic lists of what the business trends will be next year, every look at 2013 business trends includes telecommuting.

Now telecommuting has been on these lists every year for the past five - and on some longer than that. It’s probably the one trend we take most for granted, and yet it was inconceivable 20 years ago.

  • - Phones weren’t mobile.
  • - There was no “Follow me” functionality.
  • - Forwarding was possible on only the most advanced office systems.
  • - And the lines between office and personal phones hadn’t been blurred.

The ability for telecommunications to accompany you around the clock – and around the globe – is something we now accept. The fact that telecommuting is still in the list of important trends means that we are still embracing the concept – and enriching our businesses as we become accustomed to all the capability it brings.

Enriching. We’ve heard a few grumbles that it means “encroaching” on personal time, but most accept that it means not being office bound, which ultimately can allow for a better work-life balance.  Sure, boundaries are blurred – especially with more home offices – but for most, that is preferable to seldom being at home and with family.

And during the holidays, that freedom of telecommuting can mean more than ever.



Voice Is The Killer App

November 19, 2012


The tech industry is always looking for something sexy, and always looking for the consumer need which will drive demand. These two usually converge into the legendary “killer app” against which all others are judged. When personal computing first emerged, depending on your point of view, either word processing or spreadsheets became the killer apps – and they still drive the need for PCs today.


In the telecom world, perception of what the next killer app will be shifts. It was data for a long while, but everyone seems to have jumped on the video bandwagon for the past several years, praying that the bandwidth infrastructure will catch up. We have a dissenting opinion – voice has always been, and always will be the “killer app” for telecom.


Ever since Alexander Graham Bell introduced the telephone, people have ‘needed’ to hear one another. Voice is the touchstone we all connect with. We recognize voices, we recognize tone – not just the words. Our brains are wired to draw much more information from voice than we recognize, and it’s why voice remains the cornerstone of telecom abilities. Video and data are nice – no debate there – but voice is essential.


Think about your average communications on the phone during a normal day. It might be nice to see the person on the other end, or have the data they are looking at, but the single most essential communication tool remains what you say to each other. It’s why silent movies were replaced (and why so many of us have difficulty with subtitled foreign films).


This means that whatever other features you may desire in a telecom system, voice quality needs to remain paramount. As does reliability. It’s why we hated the early days of cell phones, and why many still don’t trust VOIP. If the voice drops out, or fades, the entire phone experience is frustrating. Maybe voice is no longer sexy, but it is still the main consumer need – telecom’s killer app.



A Brief History of the PBX

October 31, 2012


PBX stands for Private Branch Exchange, and the technology was considered a great leap ahead over “Key Systems” when first introduced in the 1960s. The “Key System” was pioneered by Bell, and allowed for switching and interconnection of both incoming and outgoing calls – manually. The PBX automated that process, leading to the end of the era of telephone operators. 

The “Private” aspect of PBX was because they were installed on a business by business basis. But in the mid-60s, PBXs were proving so popular that Bell took this one step further by creating the Centrex in New York City, to allow Manhattan the same range of features available in a private PBX. These later became the standard world-wide.

All remained unchanged for most of three decades, until the 1990s. The major advance came as telecommunication and data networks converged. Packet switching became necessary for transferring large files of data, and the technology needed was very attractive to the telephone user as well. At this point, nothing was being “exchanged” any more – merely “connected”, but the name PBX still holds today.

Today, PBXs come in three flavours: the vanilla PBX with equipment resident at the business; an IPBX which combines voice and data over standard data channels rather than voice channels; and the hosted PBX which is virtual, so that desksets are the only hardware at the business. There are strong preferences for each of these currently, based on the state of networks, redundancy needs and other considerations.

Today, aPBXdoesn't need to bePrivate;Branching is handled through software -not switching, and nothing is eXchanged. But the PBX lives on. 



The Communications Revolution

October 16, 2012


Conventional school of thought preaches that you are not going to be a better law firm, doctor’s office, university, etc by running a better phone system than the competition. But that simply isn’t true any longer. There was a time less than twenty years ago when companies thought that having a better website didn’t matter. Or that cell phones were only for staff in critical functions or senior management.

We’ve faced a communications revolution, and the fact is that having superior communications is a business requirement. The face of business communication has transformed greatly with the introduction of VoIP and Hosted PBX services. While VOIP is still more popular in residential than business uses, there is an increase in the demand of Hosted PBX systems due to its benefit realization by large and small enterprises. As more and more businesses warmly embrace the IP telephony, the Hosted PBX systems may well replace the traditional premise based telecommunication systems in a few years.

This doesn’t mean that there’s a need for a wholesale change. Manufacturers such as Avaya have focused on migration paths rather than complete swap-outs. Much of the equipment in use today, may still be in use in another decade, if your migration is managed well. Unlike consumer electronics, business systems have been designed to be durable, and the good ones are also flexible.

We’ll help you stay future-proofed by designing forward compatible systems, and managing migrations. Because at Featurecom, we want to embrace change too.