Chat with Nat

Natalie DeCario | VoIP Innovations

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As you’re all getting ready for the three day weekend, we want to send out a short and sweet Chat with Nat. I first want to talk a little about the post we had on the VoIP Innovations blog this week.

Everyone knows that VoIP security is a HUGE topic in the industry. One thing that people sometimes let slide is their security measures. To avoid VoIP fraud and hackers, you need to plan ahead of time and make sure your system is as secure as it can be. This means starting to secure everything even before you make the decision to move to a VoIP solutions. The blog post covers some of the basic precautions that anyone considering, or already using, VoIP should be taking.

Next week on the blog we’ll be talking about how to cut costs with telecommuting by utilizing VoIP. Telecommuting is a popular trend right now, but more and more companies are noticing that their teams are starting to feel isolated. This blog post will share with you the benefits that VoIP can bring to your company by connecting your telecommuting employees with the rest of their team.

As this week comes to an end, we know everyone is making plans for their 4th of July celebrations. Since it falls on a Friday this year, some of us won’t be in the office that day. The VoIP Innovations Porting Department will be closed, but our Support Team will be able to assist you from 10am to 6:30pm EST.

Please remember that your first point of contact for support should be to open a ticket. As always, we will still be responding to emergencies 24 hours a day. If you experience an emergency, please call Support at 877-478-6471.

Thanks and have a great 4th of July!

Is Your VoIP Service Secure Enough?

Before you decide to implement VoIP services you need to uncover the box and perform a lot of security optimization tasks in your main business data server. Voice over IP is not a completely radical idea. It was there in the past, remaining unnoticed as it was applied in toll-bypass or at ATM counters. VoIP offers you a cheaper communication opportunity than other than the existing systems. Let’s talk about some of the well-known issues and see how to tighten the security loopholes for an unmatched and highly secured communication experience using your VoIP service.

Call encryption is necessary

When using VoIP, you are automatically falling in the pool of security threats of the internet. If you are making a call through VoIP to a conventional number you are facing both types of security vulnerabilities. One possible solution to this problem is call encryption, since you cannot stop the hackers who intercept your call. A VoIP call follows a complicated path through multiple routers, servers and network carriers. Therefore, call encryption is the only way out. The most robust call encryption method is 256 bit AES encryption. This encryption technology is available with a few major VoIP service providers such as Skype.

Secure your computer

Is Your VoIP Service Secure Enough?No matter how secure your VoIP service provider is, you are letting the hackers do their tricks if you have an unprotected PC. When you make calls using an unprotected or infected PC, hackers can track down what you are doing. They will simply retrieve voice data right from your PC. Call encryption and other security settings will not work unless you have a stronghold in your own PC. To solve this issue, you need to install good security software in your PC and keep it up to date. Avoid clicking on suspicious links and do not ever open unsolicited email attachments. If you pay attention to these issues, you can easily keep the keep interceptors at bay. Nowadays, separate VoIP phones are also available. These devices minimizes the risks involved in using a PC.

Network monitoring and firewall

Hackers and call interceptors can get access to your system through open and unmonitored network ports. You must close all the doors that are not in use by using a strong firewall application. A firewall is something that filters the packet data sent and received via all the available ports. You can also install a hardware firewall with your routers. This way, you can filter out the security threats in the preliminary stage. There are also various network monitoring applications are available. In a large sized company, a network monitoring application is pretty useful as it tracks all network activity and gives you a detailed graphical report. When VoIP applications are in use, a network monitoring software can alert you for any abnormal network activity that could be a possible intercept threat.

Multi-level security authentication

You must set up a multi-level security authentication system for accessing VoIP service. This way, you can prevent eavesdropping. First, you must have password authentication in your system for logging into your account. Then, you must set up a different password or pin authentication for accessing VoIP service. It is best if your VoIP service provider offers you email and mobile notifications when you log in and log out every time you use the service. This way, you will know who is logging into your account and when.

About the Author: Michelle Patterson is excited about the new technologies that are reshaping the way we stay in touch and communicate, particularly in business. She works with companies that are introducing these technologies to make understanding them easy for regular people.

Chat with Nat

Natalie DeCario | VoIP Innovations

Click for my info!

Happy Friday everyone! How has the week been treating you? We’ve been busy as usual over here at VoIP Innovations and we can’t wait to tell you about it.

I first want to talk about the Hosted Billing White Paper that we released this week. This White Paper is full of great information on how to pick the perfect VoIP billing solution for your VoIP business. This a crucial decision to make and it’s important to know what your needs are before you pick a solution. Our VP of Business Development, Nick Media, did a fantastic job at compiling some of the most basic questions that you need to ask yourself to make sure you find the best solution. You’ll be able to find this White Paper on our Website in our Hosted Billing section.

This week on the VoIP Innovations blog we also shared an interesting infographic on the life and death of the Analog Telephone. This infographic was created by Software Advice, a small business VoIP and telecom consultancy, and we loved it so much that we wanted to share it with all of our readers.

Next week on the blog:

  • Is VoIP Secure Enough? – VoIP is a great technology that can greatly enhance the communications experience. Before you commit to using this technology, you have to understand that your system needs to be secure so you can avoid hackers and other types of VoIP fraud.
  • Cutting Costs with Telecommuting and VoIP – You can save money, without your team feeling isolated, by following a few simple tips that we’ll share with you.
  • ITEXPO News – Once again the time has come for us to start telling you about why you need to visit us at ITEXPO. The show will be in Las Vegas and will run from August 11- 14th. We love getting the chance to talk to our customers and friends in industry that we don’t normally get to see face to face. Two of the main services we’ll be promoting at the show are our new Hosted Billing Platform and the End User Portal we launched not too long ago. As always we have VIP Passes available in our BackOffice that grant you FREE entry to the show. We’ll be at booth #413 so make sure you stop by and say hello!

As this week comes to an end, we know everyone is making their plans for next weekend’s 4th of July celebrations. Since this falls on a Friday this year, we won’t be in the office that day. The VoIP Innovations Porting Department will be closed but our Support Team will be able to assist you from 10am to 6:30pm EST. If you run into an issue and need to contact support, please remember that your first point of contact should always be to open a ticket in your BackOffice.

Thanks for checking out this week’s Chat with Nat at VoIP Innovations. Have a great weekend!

R.I.P. to the Analog Telephone

Today we have a pretty awesome infographic on the history of the analog telephone from our friends over at Software Advice, a small business VoIP and telecom consultancy. Everyone knows that there are other telephone options out there that DON’T utilize the great telecommunications innovations we’ve all come to know and love – VoIP (obviously!). But did you realize how far back the history of telephones actually go? Before you start Googling that answer, take a look at the infographic below and you’ll see how everything got its start in 1840.

Craig Borowski, VoIP and telecommunications researcher at Software Advice, was one of the people who worked to gather the information and create the infographic. In his comments below you can see some of the facts that he thought stood out and also, what he thinks about the future of analog telephones.

“The most interesting thing we learned while doing our research is the fact that the telegraph evolved into the telephone. It was fascinating to discover how that evolution took place. For example, as soon as the telegraph was invented, there were people all around the world who immediately started trying to improve it. The inventors kept making improvements in a similar fashion until it made the logical evolution into the analog telephone, and eventually modern-day VoIP technology.”

The trickiest part with designing the timeline was how to conclude it. We felt fairly confident that the current trajectory of analog telephony points to a certain end — analog has been technologically obsolete for many decades. While we could have ended it at the present day, the FCC is showing signs of releasing big national carriers of their obligations to maintain analog telephone systems. We felt the conclusion we chose was fitting — it really is only a matter of time.”

Make sure you share this post with your friends so they get their history lesson for the week. :)

20140625_Life-and-Death-of-the-Analog-Telephone1

Chat with Nat

Natalie DeCario | VoIP Innovations

Click for my info!

Happy Friday and welcome back to another weekly Chat with Nat! This week has been an exciting one for all of us at VoIP Innovations, but I’ll save the big news until the end just to build a little anticipation.

Before I get down to business, I want to mention that we have some employees who have been participating in a companywide Biggest Losers competition. Now, when I say companywide, I’m talking about everyone who is included in our parent company, ABG Capital, and their other portfolio companies. We’re on the path to creating healthier and happier employees! Today wraps up the third week of our challenge and it’s been going great so far. If you’re interested in learning more about our competition and seeing some great workouts and recipes, then I suggest you pop over to the ABG Capital blog!

As for some other good things going on here at VoIP Innovations, we posted an article on our blog that talks all about Mobile VoIP, or mVoIP for short. This article is packed with great information on mVoIP and even includes a VERY powerful statistic that explains how one billion people will be Mobile VoIP users by 2017. Are you an mVoIP user? Tell us in the comments section below!

Cloud Hosted Billing System Launched TodayAnd now – Cue drum roll – we’d like to announce that our brand new Hosted Billing Platform is up and running! This has been such an exciting new product for us to build because it’s really the final piece that is needed for a VoIP reseller to run their business from start to finish. If you’re a VoIP Innovations customer then you need to explore this new service because it’s going to make your life so much easier. If you’re not a customer of ours, then fill out an inquiry form and one of our Sales Representatives will get in contact with you so you can get started. Did I mention that this is fully integrated into our BackOffice and has a complete tax solution built right into it? Well now you know! We never want our customers to forget that our Brand Promise is, “Saving you time through consolidation, automation and innovation.” By creating this Hosted Billing Solution, we know that our customers will truly be able to benefit greatly and build a stronger VoIP business.

Last but not least, I want to share a fun little video that we made this week. The inspiration came from the YouTube channel of DaveHax who had the brilliant idea to create a crossbow that is made entirely out of office supplies. Considering how awesome this idea was, I decided to create one myself. With a few enhancements from one of our IT guys, Jake (not from Jake from State Farm :) ) we created the perfect crossbow… See for yourself in our Vine video below!

Have a great weekend everyone!

The Rising Popularity of mVoIP

It’s already old news that Voice over Internet Protocol (known as VoIP) is threatening the existence of Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS), the latter also known as Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), as well either standard or traditional telephone service. But when we put aside our snazzy acronyms for a while we can surely see that at least traditional mobile phone services are safe from the inexorable advance of VoIP, right?

The Rising Popularity of mVoIP
Mobile VoIP offers a new dimension in personal communication (Photo Credit: Florian SEROUSSI)

Wrong!

According to a press release issued by Juniper Research, Mobile VoIP users will reach one billion people by 2017. In other words, one in seven mobile users will be using mVoIP.

Wait..there’s a mobile VoIP too?

Yes. Yes there is.

A Well-Kept Secret
First of all, let’s take a look at what exactly constitutes mobile VoIP. By means of an app, a mobile phone user can bypass a calling plan entirely and instead use their mobile phone’s Internet connection to make voice calls. It’s the same principle as traditional VoIP using your home’s Internet connection to make phone calls, except now you are free to enjoy the advantages of VoIP outside of the confines of your home or work place. In either instance, you don’t need a voice network.

The main advantage? Reduced costs. The reason traditional mobile carriers don’t like it? Reduced costs! After all, why bother paying for a calling plan or minutes, when you can accomplish voice communication over your Internet connection that you’re already paying for anyway? You just download the app, and then use your Android or iPhone like you normally would.

Why isn’t Mobile VoIP Enjoying Greater Exposure?
What it comes down to is that you can’t use what you don’t know about, and many consumers simply aren’t aware of its existence. After all, the average consumer appears to still be in the process of just wrapping their heads around standard VoIP, never mind blowing their minds by saying “There’s also a mobile version available!”

The average consumer may also be put off by having to download a dedicated app for mobile VoIP, believing that this will entail greater costs. Add this to the notion that calling people who don’t use the same app will result in even more fees, and you can see the reluctance to make the jump.

But it IS Cheaper!
In most cases, even calling people outside your VoIP carrier is a minimal expense for the carrier, so there are calling plans that offer unlimited calling, and those plans are as a rule cheaper than the traditional voice plan counterparts.

And let’s not forget that we’re talking here about doing away with traditional calling plans altogether. So, for instance, if your cable provider is selling you a cable subscription, Internet access plan, and traditional telephone calling, you can get rid of the latter and just keep cable and Internet. Now, if you can convince the people you call the most to switch to the same VoIP provider you use, so much the better.

VoIP is not Going Away
On the contrary, VoIP and mVoIP will keep growing, much to the detriment of their traditional counterparts. As the technology gets better and the delivery of a constant reliable Internet connection anywhere becomes more of a reality, there will be fewer reasons not to make the switch.

At the end of the day, all of this means that the convenience and advantages of VoIP are yours no matter where you are. Check into the residential and commercial plans, see what they have to offer, and make the move.

Byline: John Terra has been a freelance writer since 1985. He’s convinced that VoIP will eventually crush traditional telecommunications, and not even the mobile market is safe.

Cloud Hosted Billing System Launched Today

We’re happy to announce that today we launched a Hosted Billing Platform that is unlike anything else you’ll find in the Wholesale VoIP industry. The new platform gives VoIP resellers a fully hosted billing system for as little as $50 per month. This product isn’t just for our clients, it’s compatible with all VoIP service providers.

Cloud Hosted Billing System Launched TodayWith this service, resellers now have the ability to easily and inexpensively bill and manage their telecommunication revenue streams.  This robust platform not only provides seamless integration with any VoIP carrier but it is compatible with Asterisk ®, FreeSwitch, Sansay, Nextone and Telestics, just to name a few.  Simply upload and rate CDRs from any carrier in minutes.

“Creating a Hosted Billing Platform gives resellers all the tools they need to bill and tax their customers,” said Jason Tapolci, President of VoIP Innovations. “Our BackOffice already provides our customers with a full turnkey VoIP solutions and by creating this new service, we’ve given our customers the tools to run a very successful VoIP business from start to finish.”

One key feature that is included with the Hosted Billing Platform is that resellers can bill for usage on DIDs, extensions, virtual numbers, trunks and IP addresses. They also have the opportunity to bill one-time fees and recurring charges and create unlimited packages, subscriptions, and rate sheets. Tax exemptions and customer discounts are also great features that are included with the billing platform. For a more comprehensive list of features that are included with our Hosted Billing Platform, please see the Hosted Billing section on the Services page of our website.

If you are interested in getting started with the Hosted Billing platform today, customers can login to their existing VoIP Innovations account and go to the ‘Hosted Billing’ option under the ‘Billing’ tab. If you are not a customer but would like to sign up for a VoIP Innovations account and explore everything we have to offer, fill out an inquiry form by clicking the link below and a Sales Representative will get back to you shortly.






Chat with Nat

Natalie DeCario | VoIP Innovations

Click for my info!

Who else is ready to celebrate the weekend? I know everyone at VoIP Innovations is! But before we all get on with our weekend activities, let’s take a quick look at what we’ve been up to all week.

The first piece that I’d like to discuss is the awesome blog post that Justin Cornish, a VoIP Innovations Technical Services Representative, wrote on VoIP security. There are numerous high tech and detailed security measures that a company can take into consideration when trying to protect themselves against VoIP hackers. Did you realize that the simplest, and sometimes most effective, way to secure your network is to create a very strong password? Justin goes into much more detail on why planning proactively to secure your network is much better than dealing with a problem once it’s already there.

The second post that hit the VoIP Innovations blog this week was on VoIP and online education. Poor communication is one of the most common reasons that students drop out of their online classes. Online educators need to harness the power of VoIP and use it for what it was made for; communicating. VoIP would allow for simple audio and video conferencing, file sharing, instant messaging and screen sharing that students can use on all of their devices. It’s a pretty interesting article so don’t miss it!

Coming up next week on the blog, you can expect to see a new blog post on, The Rising Popularity of mVoIP: Why all the buzz? According to Juniper research, within three years 1 billion people will be using mVoIP, or mobile VoIP, through smartphone apps. This is a hot topic right now and it’s going to be a great article to check out. Remember, if you’re worried that you’re going to miss one of our posts, you can always subscribe to our blog and you’ll get an email as soon as something is posted.

And now for some even more exciting news from VoIP Innovations! If you remember from last week’s Chat with Nat, I mentioned the new Hosted Billing platform that we’ll be introducing into our BackOffice. The new billing platform is the one and done solution for VoIP resellers everywhere! We’ve created the means for resellers to seamlessly bill their customers, no matter where they purchase their current VoIP services from. As another added feature to the new VoIP Innovations Hosted Billing Platform, resellers will be able to take full advantage of a built in taxation solution that allows them to rate and tax every invoice. We’ll be launching this product on Monday, June 16 and we’ll also be adding more detailed information to the Services Page on the VoIP Innovations website. Likewise, you’ll be seeing a blog post, press release and training video on how to fully utilize everything that this new service has to offer.

That wraps up this week’s VoIP Innovations Chat with Nat! I hope everyone enjoys the rest of their Friday and has a great weekend. And we want to wish all the great dads out there a very happy Father’s Day!

VoIP and Online Education

For all of the praises, hype, and ballyhoo made over online courses, there’s a downside that is seldom mentioned: the high attrition rate of online students. Depending on which studies you read, the dropout rate ranges either between 20 to 50 percent, or a staggering 70 to 80 percent.

Let’s take a look at some possible reasons for the attrition rate, and then touch upon one way in which VoIP can help reduce those dropout rates. Used wisely, VoIP could end up being a big influence in how instructors create engaging online courses.

VoIP And Online Education
VoIP technology may help overcome one of the biggest pitfalls of online education

Why Online Students Quit
Although online learning is a popular means of gaining or continuing an education, it’s the ability to keep students involved for the long haul that’s causing problems. Among the contributing factors:

  • Students lose enthusiasm and get discouraged, usually because of a lack of support or community.
  • Instructors don’t respond to inquiries within a reasonable period of time.
  • Students’ needs not met.
  • Students feel disconnected and unimportant due to a lack of empathy.
  • Students most likely work and/or have other life obligations, which cause them to shift priorities away from online learning.

There’s a common thread running through most of these factors, and that’s the necessity for consistent, meaningful communication. In order for an online educator to foster a viable student-teacher relationship as well as sustain a genuine classroom dynamic, there needs to be more communication that conveys the “we’re all in this together” attitude. That’s where VoIP comes in, and it only makes sense that it takes a greater role in building online communities, as the technology is supplanting the old ways of communicating.

Why Isn’t VoIP More Popular In E-Learning?
It’s true that VoIP brings audio and video conferencing, file sharing, instant messaging, and screen sharing to the world of online education. Furthermore, it also makes it easy for participants to use not only their desktop computers, but also their laptops, mobile devices, even televisions.

But as things stand these days, VoIP lags behind self-paced or asynchronous online learning systems because those latter methods allow students to learn anytime, anywhere. There’s also a vast array of VoIP providers out there, and there’s no established set of e-learning platforms available to all of them for the purpose of accommodating this new technology.

And anyone who knows even the slightest bit about human nature can see the flaw in the old system, the very system that has those poor dropout rates. Sure, you can learn anytime and anywhere, but all of the convenience and flexibility in the world means absolutely nothing if there’s no enthusiasm, interest, and incentive to log in and participate. Again, you need the human touch.

Look at it another way; it’s easier to lose weight or follow an exercise regimen if you’re doing it with other people. Tackling a daunting task alone for an extended period gets depressing and dull. That’s why students studying online need to feel like they are part of an actual classroom. And that means …

Building An Online Community
Let’s focus on just one simple yet commonplace application that takes full advantage of VoIP, and that’s Skype. Students get a more satisfactory experience out of online classes when using Skype because it facilitates a real-time human connection not only with their instructors but with fellow students. Students who are happier with their learning experience will keep coming back, not only to keep learning but to also build relationships with those students who have similar interests.

And while it’s easy to duck out of an online class if you’re not in easy communication with your virtual classmates, if you’re part of an online class that meets regularly and interacts, an absence is felt and noticed, offering a little more incentive for the student whose zeal has been otherwise co-opted by an immediate feeling of laziness or procrastination. It becomes a case of “I can’t blow this off, I’ll be missed.”

Conclusion
Utilizing Skype is just scratching the surface, but it’s an immediately available resource and a great means to begin mitigating the problem. It’s clear that the VoIP industry needs to come up with educational tools specially designed for its capabilities. Maybe then VoIP will be taken more seriously by online educators.

Byline: John Terra has been a freelance writer since 1985. He believes that if people willingly meet online in order to adventure as a group in a MMPORG, then they’ll meet for a class if the means is there and the subject is engaging!

VoIP Security – Why Me?!

VoIP Security, Why Me?

Justin Cornish, VoIP Innovations Technical Services Representative

One of our Technical Services Representatives, Justin Cornish, has written a fantastic article on the importance of VoIP security. Continue reading below to find out what you can do to protect yourself!

You are rudely awakened at 4 A.M. by a call from an irate client stating that none of their calls are going through. Taking a quick peek at logging, you find roughly 100,000 calls placed since midnight to high cost destinations. As calls begin steadily flowing in regarding interrupted service, you commence a frantic ‘red-alert’ search for the cause of the issue in order to shut it down. Sadly, the damage has already been done, and now you are stuck with a bill of possibly thousands of dollars of fraudulent traffic (roughly $3000 being the low end average of a single event). You have been an unfortunate victim of a sad common practice known as International Revenue Sharing Fraud (IRSF).

One of the most common questions we see in regards to this sort of occurrence is “Why me?” Unfortunately, it isn’t just you. A rough estimate of about $40 Billion per year has been reported in reference to VoIP fraud. As networks steadily become larger and more complex, security of these networks becomes exponentially more complex and sadly, insufficient.

What is widely assumed to be some misunderstood teen sitting in Mom’s basement with nothing better to do (at least in this author’s humble outlook), is actually a much more elaborate scheme. In short, the assailant (hacker) strikes a deal with a local carrier in a high cost area such as many international mobile numbers and satellite phones. The deal being that if the hacker can successfully increase the traffic to that area (traffic pumping), he or she nets a percentage of the profits. Effectively turning your money, into their money, without breaking a sweat. And, as the calls cross international lines, it becomes all but impossible to track from a legal standpoint, leaving all involved parties to pack up and start scoping the next victim before the previous one is even aware of the issue.

As cliché as it may seem, the best approach regarding this sort of VoIP Security occurrences is that of a proactive one. Stop the attempt before it starts. With larger networks, it is nearly impossible to protect each and every access point. This is especially difficult for retail providers, wherein clients gain access through a variety of devices. Often the intrusion occurs at the smallest and regularly weakest point. Analog Telephone Adapters (ATAs) phones are time and again the simplest to crack. Not necessarily by design, but in practice. Setting the passwords for such devices to match the extension number, or something along 0000, 1111…, 9999 is common and extremely inadvisable.

This includes voicemail passwords. Recent studies show a voicemail password of 1234 covers almost five percent of all VM passcodes. Once a hacker locates such a device with an easily guessed password, he or she simply calls that number, leaving a voicemail with the handy ‘leave a call back number’ feature. Then logging into the device, they call back the IRSF number as many times as possible, for as long as possible. In this instance, as the call originates from the end user’s handset, the hacker is nearly impossible to detect.

Another common access point for hackers is via SIP phones connected to a Private Branch eXchange (PBX). Often, these SIP phones reside on the public internet and are frequently devoid of any sort of VoIP security measures. Similar methods of initiating the call fraud ensue, leaving the end user to foot the bill and working with local law enforcement in order to track down the criminals.

Often carriers or service providers have available options for international dialing. Such as denying it outright, and/or requiring a specific ‘code’ to be dialed in order to recognize the call as an international attempt. Ensure that only authorized clients have access to this service as needed. Additionally, it is common practice to enable a dial plan to automatically add the necessary prepend to send out international calls. Having the end user manually dial this code can at the very least delay a would-be hacker in his duties.

VoIP SecuritySo how do we stop it and increase our VoIP security? Unfortunately this simply isn’t possible. VoIP is an ever popular market and it keeps growing. The ‘easy cash’ possibilities for a would-be hacker is simply too abundant to ignore. The basic principles remain, network security and password control. Ensure that only specifically authorized devices and services can receive or initiate calls. Then control the passwords on those devices as much as possible. Crank up the strength requirements wherever possible and require changes often. As annoying as that may be, when you realize that it may have just saved you a few thousand dollars, it becomes a bit more favorable.

Securing every last access point, while possible, is not always plausible. Some will slip through the cracks at some point. An indispensable tool to combat this is fraud detection software. Pouring over CDRs isn’t sufficient in catching these issues. As if the calls are logged, then the damage has already been done. Software can run in real time and be setup to look out for anything out of the ordinary and put a stop to it before it wipes out your bottom line and puts you or your clients under water.

History has proven that proactive solutions trump all else at every turn. In an industry where every second matters, waiting or putting things off for later simply isn’t acceptable. As the frequency and magnitude of VoIP related fraud continues to rise, security becomes an ever present requisite, with constant monitoring riding in at a close second.