Monday, July 19, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Getting "Jep" on Page 1
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Phone.com VoIP Call Quality Problem - Solved
For my company I was looking for a small business phone system with a virtual PBX, an efax and a VoIP handset, all for a reasonable price. I've looked at Grasshopper, Ringcentral and 8x8, but Phone.com was the only provider that could offer the full functionality for a pretty low price. But unfortunately I ran into some call quality issues, which were actually not so hard to solve.
The complete small business phone system
I've set the phone system up as follows:
- toll-free number as the central phone line
- local alternative number
- local fax number (efax, send and receive)
- a Polycom VoIP handset
- Forward to my cell phone if I'm not at my desk
- 600 minutes per month, shared among all above
- Monthly cost of $35 plus taxes and fees
VoIP Quality Problems
I was pretty excited when the handset arrived, but I was only a minute into my first call when the person at the other end said: "do you have a VoIP phone, you're cutting out all the time". I called Phone.com support, but they couldn't really help me.
I have cable Internet, and a wireless router hooked up to the cable modem. The router is a Linksys WRT54G2, which has reasonably good reviews at Amazon.com. However, with the Phone.com VoIP test tool I could see that the line quality wasn't good enough: too much jitter and packet loss.
Router with Quality of Service (QoS) support
Through research on the Internet I found out that some of the more professional routers have Quality of Service support, which allows you to give higher priority to VoIP calls compared to other internet traffic (like watching a movie on your computer). I ordered the D-Link GamerLounge router (DGL-4100) for an amazingly low price of $74 (after mail-in rebate). It was pretty easy to set up and - while I haven't made a ton of calls yet - it seems that the quality problems have been solved!
I have Time Warner cable Internet, with 10+Mbps download speed and 500kbs upload speed. In the old setup I had only a cable modem and my Linksys wireless router: my computers were connected via wifi, and the VoIP phone was plugged into one of the router's Ethernet ports.
The old situation
In the new setup, the D-Link router is put in between the cable modem and the wireless router: the phone is now plugged into the D-Link, just like the wireless router, but the phone gets higher priority.
The new situation
The D-Link router worked out of the box: there were some minor setup tasks, but the only main configuration work was to add the QoS rule for VoIP (see screenshot).
The D-Link was now taking care of Network Address Translation (NAT) and DHCP, which was previously done by the Linksys wireless router. Therefore I had to reconfigure the Linksys router to function as 'Router' rather than 'Gateway' (in Setup > Advanced Routing, set Operating Mode to "Router").
In the D-Link configuration I had to assign a static IP address to the router, otherwise it would be really hard to access the Linksys configuration page (the IP address would change when the DHCP lease expires). This is done in Basic > Network Settings. In the Linksys Basic Setup I had to enter this IP address.
Even though I'm cheap and want to get a great phone system for a low price, it's good to invest in call quality. A $74 investment paid off really well. Phone.com should almost offer this router as part of the package.
Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Disruptive Change in Business Intelligence
In the past weeks I've worked with Good Data as a marketing consultant. I've spent a lot of time studying their value proposition, and their technology. The market they are in – Collaborative Business Intelligence – is very interesting.
The BI market has several strong established players, and most of them have been acquired by the industry giants: Business Objects by SAP, Cognos by IBM and Hyperion by Oracle. For now, they will still rule the Fortune 500, but there are new competitors coming up from the bottom. That is one of the characteristics of disruptive change, according to Clayton Christensen's book 'The Innovators Dilemma'.
What is new about vendors like Good Data? I'd say there are a couple of aspects:
- SaaS Business Intelligence model (rather than on-site software)
- Focus on user experience and collaboration
- Pre-built vertical applications
These aspects improve the ROI of cloud business intelligence projects: it is less costly to roll out because of the on-demand model and the pre-built applications, and user adoption is higher because of the user friendliness and collaborative features.
Actually the best case for online business intelligence is made by Evangelos Simoudis on the Sandhill.com blog. He indicates that online systems are better at aggregating data from various locations, from inside and outside the company. Only this will create true new insights.
Also, a cloud-based analytics system is a natural for social features. Collaboration is taking place all over the web. Whether it's a generic social network like Facebook or MySpace, a white-label social network on Ning, or a micro-blogging service like Twitter. This has the potential to transform BI from a solitary activity to a collaborative process.
An additional benefit is more operational in nature. True cloud-based systems are multi-tenant: in other words, only one instance of the application is used by multiple customers. This is done in such a way that the data for each customer is totally isolated, but application maintenance is much easier. Even better, the actual end-customer never has to to application maintenance: the new features simply appear in the product.
Evangelos mentions a total of 12 points in favor of on-demand business intelligence. So if this is of interest to you, please be sure to read his full article.
Another recent article about the pros and cons of hosted BI was published on TechTarget.com. They are quoting a Forrester report by Boris Evelson. As the benefits he mentions: “less reliance on internal IT, anywhere access to the application, pay-as-you go pricing with no up-front cost and vendor management of the application and infrastructure.” But as a drawback he mentions “lack of built-in integration with the rest of an organization's data and processes”. The original report can be accessed on the Forrester website (subscribers only).
In this post I've tried to summarize some benefits of cloud-based business intelligence software, with links to other relevant articles. Please let me know if you have additional suggestions.