General Telephony

The Ways How Building Open Source Software is Like Baking a Cake

open source software and cakeWe recently launched the all-new and totally free to acquire VirtualPBX Web Phone for all of our Dash Service Plan account holders to use. This was a big deal for our customers and us because it was the first time that open-source WebRTC (Web-Based Real-Time Communications) software was used to create such a powerful telecommunications device that was being made freely available to the hosted PBX community. We’re rather proud of the Web Phone for both its formidable performance and durable reliability as much as we are for the fact that we’re literally giving it away to anyone who wants to use it. Since its debut earlier this year, however, we’ve been getting lots of questions about how it was made, how we can offer it for free, and general questions about what features users would be losing out on by using it. The short answer to that is that anyone on a VirtualPBX VoIP plan will get 100% parity on the feature set on the VirtualPBX Web Phone as they would on even the highest quality VoIP Desk Phone. We understand the skepticism, though, honestly. We have so many people who make the switch to VirtualPBX from other services that promise a lot and deliver a little that it’s entirely understandable why some people may be wary to accept something that is promised to be so impressive, much less that it’s being offered for free. To address some of the apprehension, we’ve tapped one of our engineering rockstars to explain WebRTC and Open-Source Software but still we’ve decided to make it even more approachable with a new analogy. And it’s one that I think is close to almost everyone’s heart; cake.

Open Source Software As a Cookbook

First of all, who doesn’t love cakes, right? There’s a reason cake is ubiquitous at birthday celebrations and that’s because, while we may have disagreements about the flavors or icing, it’s pretty tough to go wrong with a fat slice of cake. And how is our new Web Phone like a birthday cake? Well, just like the spongy goodness of a cake, the VirtualPBX Web Phone shares a variety of similarities.

  • Our new web phone is comprised of a balanced apportionment of carefully selected ingredients. Too much tech and not enough UX design can leave a similarly bad taste to a cake baked with too much rising agent that may have a lot of volume to it, but the aftertaste is something that people may not care for.
  • Choosing the right platforms to be compatible with (ie, being immediately optimized for all modern web browsers) is also a lot like picking the style of cake layers. A multi-tiered and festooned piece of bakery may look good, but is it something that works for everyone? Not likely. From a reliability standpoint, a simple sheet cake is what you’d need to make sure that anyone, anywhere would be able to, sink their teeth into, a new web phone.
  • And, of course, one of the most obvious of similarities between cakes and the VirtualPBX Web Phone is that they each can be universally popular assuming the recipe is followed to the tee. This is great for our users because we host and manage all of the necessary technology behind the web phone in the cloud which means that they can rest assured that the recipe is right 100% of the time. Because you know the secret to making perfect Tollhouse Chocolate Chip cookies, don’t you? It’s following the recipe perfectly.

Use Our Open Source Software as Much as You Want

Here’s another similarity between great cooking and great open source software; when people make something incredible, they want to share it with everyone else. Just like you can find recipes from amateur and professional chefs being freely given away across the web, we’re also happy to provide our web phone totally free of charge. That means that you can have as many of these as you want on as many devices and for all of your employees and the cost will always be zero dollars and no cents. The VirtualPBX Web Phone operates reliably on any modern web browser on any web-enabled device, phone, tablet, or computer. The only thing you pay for is the use of your Dash Service Plan, and your pooled minutes are drawn from each user in the exact same way they always had been. Now, the only thing that changes is you get the industry’s best and, ahem, freshest web phone technology for all of your employees totally free. No more buying and provisioning VoIP phones, no more paying licensing fees for softphone applications, and way more budget left over for, if we have anything to say about it, cake. You can’t always eat as much cake as you’d like, but with the VirtualPBX Web Phone and a Dash Service Plan you can at least have your cake and eat it, too!

VirtualPBX Answers: How Does an Internet Phone Call Work?

Internet Phone CallPlacing a phone call is pretty straightforward and something that most people probably don’t think twice about. With the advent of the digital age, placing an internet phone call is becoming more common and, although the end result is the exact same as with a traditional call, many people question the mechanics behind how this works. And because plenty of our readers have asked us on either Facebook or Twitter exactly what an internet phone call is and how it works, we’ve decided to address the topic in this latest edition of VirtualPBX Answers.

What is an Internet Phone Call?

In its most simplistic terms, an internet phone call can refer to any type of voice communications that don’t rely on traditional copper-wired telephone line infrastructure. This means that an internet phone call is a voice connection that relies on data connections over the world wide web to connect two parties. This is where it gets a bit nuanced, but there’s a difference between an internet phone call and other voice connections. Connections that link parties via actual phone numbers require a particular set of technologies, and this blog will focus on those. Conversations that occur between phone numbers will always need to interact with the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) regardless of if they are antiquated wired phone calls or modern internet phone calls. Picturing the PSTN as a massive switchboard that directs traffic to all known telephone numbers may be a bit difficult to conceptualize, but it’s an accurate summation of what it does. Older analog telephone calls route through wires into PBX’s (Private Branch Exchange) that are like sub-stations for the PSTN and can be either on-site (for corporations, perhaps) or installed as intermediaries by a telephone company (in neighborhoods or apartment complexes, for example). The call is then routed from the PBX to wherever the destination is located via a series of wires and PBX locations along the way. An internet phone call does something identical in result with a fraction of the logistics.

How Does an Internet Phone Call Work?

An internet phone call relies on converting the audio of a phone call into packets of digital information that it will transmit over data connections. These packets travel into a virtual PBX, which is a digital facsimile of the aforementioned PBX, but it is entirely hosted in the cloud. The audio is then ushered to its destination form the hosted PBX to the PSTN and thereby the internet phone call is connected to the desired telephone number. The name for voice connections that use this method is Voice Over Internet Protocol, commonly referred to simply as VoIP.

What is the Advantage of an Internet Phone Call?

There are a variety of benefits for using VoIP and internet phone calls over traditional means, most of which are immediately apparent in a monthly telephone bill. The cost savings of VoIP over a traditional phone service can be staggering, too, when organizations with more complex needs like call routing, ACD queues, and call recording are present. However, even simple phone plans for individuals are routinely more affordable over VoIP, as well. Additionally, the fact that internet phone calls require no physical equipment or on-site engineering know-how to operate makes their flexibility, adaptability, customization options, and scalability the hands down winner over older, copper-wire telephone options. Not to mention the fact that with advanced WebRTC (Web-based real-time communications) options becoming more popular, there are even free web phones that operate perfectly from any modern web browser, too. To find out how much your business would benefit from a new VoIP service, simply compare your telephone bill with one of these Award-Winning VoIP Plans from VirtualPBX.

Why Remote Working Could Help Families Live Better Lives

Why Remote Working Could Help Families Live Better LivesTrying to stretch a dollar to its maximum impact is nothing new. For as long as Americans have dealt with a shift from a production to a consumption-based economy, venturing to get more for less has been just a way of life. But in a recent study, it was determined that nearly half of American families can’t afford basic costs of living like rent, food, and child or health care. While many of these families were involved in service roles that require an in-person presence to perform the functions of the job, others are able to execute on the expectations of their jobs from almost anywhere. This is why remote working could help families live better lives if they are able to relocate to more affordable areas without the burdens of commuting or the high costs of living associated with more densely populated areas.

How Remote Working Could Help Families Live Better Lives

The crux of the issue about affordability struggles in the face of an unemployment rate below 4% is that wage increases have been notoriously lagging behind those of costs of goods and inflation. This has been infamously the trend since back in the 1970’s but, in light of these near-historic unemployment rates, takes a new place in the public conversation. The way that many American families have been choosing to deal with the issue is by participating in the gig-economy of picking up side jobs or simply going without vacations in an effort to keep their productivity at a high level. From a health and productivity standpoint, taking time off from work cannot be overstated in its importance, but alas, this is the choice many Americans make. It doesn’t have to be that way. By leveraging the advanced, cloud-based communications tools and techniques available to the nearly 40% of the workforce cited in this study that doesn’t rely on physical tasks to complete their jobs, there is a better solution. Remote working isn’t just a convenient way for business travelers to remain productive and connected while on the road, it’s also a viable option for many workers to beat the affordability curve and live truly better lives.

Find the Right Location and Go There

At the risk of oversimplifying what is obviously a complex and emotionally charged topic, the benefits of relocating to less expensive areas and conducting more work from there is an immediate way to make income go further. With the increased access to high-speed internet access across the country becoming more common in more places, there isn’t much else a modern worker would need to contribute right from the comfort of his or her own home. Plus, with cutting edge technology like the free VirtualPBX Web Phone increasing accessibility for cloud-based communications, the barriers to entry into a remote working lifestyle are virtually nonexistent. Plus, there are hosts of resources available for companies that are new to remote working policies on how to manage remote teams that will help smooth the transition into a more distributed workforce. So what are you waiting for? Hop on the web and start picking the hometown of your dreams and maybe you’ll find that your expenses won’t be as great of a percentage of your income before you know it. If you need any help on tips or tricks on how to proceed, feel free to ask us on Facebook or Twitter and we can help point you in the right direction, wherever that may be. And before long, you can see why remote working can help your family live a better life!

VirtualPBX Answers: What Are Online Phone Calls?

online phone callsThe concept of what a telephone call is shouldn’t be abstract to anyone reading this. Basically, a point-to-point voice conversation is something that has been a part of our daily lives for generations. While not everyone knows the mechanics behind how a telephone call actually connects two people, the basic concept is widely understood. The advent of the digital age and the proliferation of access to high-speed data connections have introduced the possibility for online phone calls to grow in popularity. Online phone calls are very similar to traditional phone calls in that most people understand the concept of using the internet to connect two parties, though again the mechanics of how that occurs tend to be less commonly understood. In this blog both the methods of how to make online phone calls, as well as the technology behind them, will be made clear.

Understanding Online Phone Calls

Online phone calls are like regular telephone calls in that they each connect calls over the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network). This is basically the massive “switchboard” of sorts that all telephone calls need to go through in order to connect to each other. Traditional phone calls do this by routing through copper wires that are physically connected to the PSTN, and online phone calls use VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) to do the same thing. To accomplish that, VoIP uses cloud-based facsimiles of the junctions that wired telephone calls go through, called a PBX (Private Branch Exchange). Because it’s logistically unrealistic to wire a single cable from one phone to all the other phones on earth, these junctions (PBXs) act as efficient aggregators for connecting the world. A hosted PBX, as used by a VoIP system, is a virtual equivalent of a standard PBX and as a result doesn’t require any of the physical equipment or costs associated with an on-site option.

Benefits of Online Phone Calls

Without comparing all of the relevant benefits and restrictions that exist between a hosted and an on-site PBX, the reality is that more businesses are choosing to make online phone calls over traditional ones every year. The main arguments for this seem to fall into one of two different categories; price and flexibility. By relying on digital technology to connect calls to the PSTN, companies can save upwards of 70%-80% over on-site analog options. Additionally, because most employees have a nearly constant access to high-speed data connections, leveraging a VoIP-powered business phone system makes more sense for people who are often outside of the office. This is especially true considering how some telecom options include 4G LTE nationwide mobile networks fully integrated into their business VoIP packages. Additionally, with mobile communications continuing to evolve and integrate further into existing web-based technology, there are even more flexibility and cost benefits to be had. Most notably, the open-source software WebRTC (Web-Based Real-Time Communications) have allowed for free web phones to become available for making online phone calls over any modern web browser.

Begin Making Online Phone Calls

Getting started with making online phone calls is easy with the no-strings-attached free trial of VirtualPBX VoIP service. This 14-day option lets a business try all of the full complement of VirtualPBX hosted VoIP features and even includes several hundred minutes of use, too. And considering that the VirtualPBX Web Phone is totally free to use and only draws from the existing pool of minutes on an account, making online phone calls is about as simple as clicking through to a pick your plan now!

Tech Talks: Using WebRTC to Make Safer, Cheaper Web Phones

VirtualPBX Tech Talks WebRTCWe’ve been around for a long time and have collected some of the best minds from across several industries, and we think it’s high time they got their day in the spotlight. In this series of blogs we’ll be unearthing some of the technology and talent that power our hosted communications platform.

We’ve been spending a lot of time lately talking about our new and free to use VirtualPBX Web Phone. And why wouldn’t we? We’ve been getting blasted with positive feedback on the easy-to-use and powerful, browser-based VoIP phone. But what many people may not immediately realize is that, because it is a browser-based platform, the VirtualPBX Web Phone relies on relatively new and groundbreaking technology called WebRTC. WebRTC stands for Web Real Time Communications and to understand what makes it so revolutionary, we sat down with one of the chief architects of the VirtualPBX Web Phone and overall technology guru extraordinaire, Daniel Ruiz, the VirtualPBX Vice President of DevOps.

Okay, Daniel, for starters we’ve defined what the term WebRTC literally means, but can you add any other context to what it actually is and how it helped you make the VirtualPBX Web Phone?
Sure thing, WebRTC is a function of the latest developments of HTML5, which is basically the universal language for structuring and presenting content on the web. What WebRTC really does is that, because it’s built out of HTML5 it represents something that is universal for really any website from both a page and a browser standpoint. This is great because anything that’s built off of an open-source platform that is as widely recognized as HTML5 means that there are vastly fewer challenges than with other technologies. And then finally, the big thing about WebRTC is that because it’s inherently compatible with HTML5 web content, that means it can conduct browser-to-browser communications on a universal scale.

Okay there are two things to unpack there, one is about open-source and the other is about those more challenging technologies. Can we start by explaining what open-source is please?
No problem, open-source is the name used for software that has the original source code available for free to use and modify for anyone who wants it. That means that, for our VirtualPBX Web Phone for example, we got to use the open-source HTML5 software to build a WebRTC platform that supported all of the advanced features that any of our Dash Service Plan customers expect from their VoIP phones. Plus, then we were able to wrap it in an attractive exterior and present it with a simple, clean interface that is deserving of the award-winning UX/UI design of Dash itself. The big takeaway from launching Dash a few years ago was that customers loved how easy it was to intuitively navigate and how that didn’t come at the expense of any of the whiz-bang features of an enterprise-grade telephone system. We were highly motivated to ensure that was the same reaction that people had to any web phone we released and I’m proud that we accomplished that with the VirtualPBX Web Phone.

That’s very helpful, thanks. Now about the other options out there for building a web phone that weren’t quite as attractive, can you talk about those for a moment?
Honestly, that would be a really short conversation because there’s really nothing that can do what we’ve done with the VirtualPBX Web Phone that would also be as simple, and more importantly, as secure as this.

That’s a huge topic for our audience, what are the security concerns of non-WebRTC communications?
Previously, the only way to do something like an immediate browser-to-browser communications interface relied on any one of a few options, the most commonly known one being with a Flash plug-in. As you may have heard, Flash has been the bane of cyber security folks for ages. To sum it up, though, Flash and other plug-ins all suffer from the same few weaknesses that aren’t problems in WebRTC. First is that, unlike WebRTC, any plug-in requires a download. This is problematic because one, it can come with added malicious viruses or malware, and two, specifically for a business environment, not all users have admin permissions and therefore can’t allow downloads and installs onto their computers. Also, unlike WebRTC that is constantly monitored and updated in the cloud, any type of plug-in requires multiple patches and updates to be managed by the end-user. And as I know you’ve mentioned in previous blogs about cyber security, the common way endpoints are compromised is by not being diligent with updates and patches and whatnot. And not to beat a dead horse or anything, but again, none of that is a concern for the VirtualPBX Web Phone.

Ha, by all means, beat away! Okay so what else should we know about the web phone and is there anything else coming down the line for it?
Well as you know, we have a lot of great things on the horizon that all can be seen right now on the VirtualPBX Product Roadmap, but there are always even a few more surprises that don’t quite make it to the list until they’re launched. That’s because we like to keep some surprises truly surprising, of course. But that said, rest assured that the web phone is no different than any of our proprietary technology in that we’re never really satisfied with good enough and will continue to develop it to its greatest potential ad infinitum.

Wow, strong words from a strong DevOps leader.
You know it, buddy.

Regardless of what Daniel and the rest of the engineering talent at VirtualPBX is working on, you can rest assured that it will be designed to deliver the best features in hosted voice communications available. Additionally, all of the features of the VirtualPBX Web Phone are backed by the 24/7 support of our award-winning Customer Support Team so you never need to worry about going it alone. Plus, because we’re one of the only companies to include our Support Team at no extra charge, you can use their expertise any time you want, as much as you want. To get started with your new VirtualPBX Web Phone or Dash Plan simply click through and you can be up and running in literally a few minutes from right now. Otherwise, you can always join the Tech Talks conversation by suggesting topics on Twitter and Facebook, too!

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