Issues Raised

Issues Raised

Andy Gilbert

The points raised in the article cover the subjects of adding value, connectivity and security. These are of significant importance to HostTALK because the whole ethos behind the HostTALK proposition was identifying and finding solutions for these issues.

HostTALK was initially developed with the belief that small and medium-sized organisations should be able to enjoy the benefits of voice and Internet technologies that large enterprises were using, but at an affordable price.

To ensure an excellent quality service to its customers HostTALK realised that this meant that they would have to own the infrastructure within their own data centre, develop technology to ensure the system would work securely and also provide broadband connectivity that could guarantee call quality.

It also meant that HostTALK had to offer an operating platform of the highest quality to its customers, which it believed to be Cisco CallManager.

Andy Gilbert comments, “At HostTALK we were keen to utilise the Cisco CallManager platform, because it is widely respected throughout the industry as a feature-rich system, and is consequently used by many international blue chip companies.

“One of the other great advantages of using this platform is that Cisco has a product for each part of the VoIP jigsaw from phones and LAN Switching to the Voice Gateways and Routers in our core network, this means that everything is designed to work together from end to end reducing the possibilities of interoperability issues between multiple vendors.

“Cisco is continuously investing in its research and development, and partners including ourselves at HostTALK, are committed to developing value-added extras for the platform. At HostTALK we add value with basic extras such as voice-mail and voice recording as well as individually tailored solutions for customers like database routing and database popping. If the customer wants to transform their handsets into mini computers, then we can also provide XML applications which are industry specific, tailored specially for them.”

The second belief was that Cisco CallManager could never be a hosted product; as some believed that the system could not be effectively tenanted.

Gilbert continues: “Throughout the industry Cisco CallManager is highly regarded as a call management system but up until now nobody that we are aware of has developed the technology to allow it to be used as a secure multi-tenanted platform.”

To do this, HostTALK designed and developed a unique IPT web provisioning tool. This tool allows Cisco CallManager to be partitioned into hundreds of segments, each segment representing a different company.

“Our development team has spent over 18 months developing this front end which sits between the customer and CallManager and allows for the customer to view their information securely and manage the platform as if it was their own dedicated system. There are different layers – one for resellers to manage their customers, one for each company so they can administer adds, moves and changes along with viewing real-time billing information and one for the end-user which allows them to change their ring-tone, set-up call forward options or listen to voice mails all through an easy to use web front end.”

One of the key benefits of HostTALK is the fact that it allows small and medium-sized enterprises to adopt a feature-rich VoIP platform which may previously have been out of their budget.

The final issue raised in the previous article was that QoS could not be guaranteed on VoIP over the web.

Gilbert explained: “At HostTALK we began by unbundling BT exchanges so that we owned the infrastructure and also took on BT’s DataStream Service. This allowed us to deliver QoS-enabled broadband private networks to our customers.”

HostTALK provides its own infrastructure to customers’ sites with either ADSL or SDSL connections, which are all uncontended, rather than the normal 20:1 contention that most other ISPs provide. Within the HostTALK network voice traffic is tagged and queued and sent to each customer site without going over the Internet meaning that QoS is guaranteed.

Gilbert concluded: “We always believed there was a way to offer Cisco IP Telephony securely on a multi-tenanted platform and connect customers to it over QoS-enabled links so that they did not have to compromise on call quality. Rather than just taking no for an answer, we set out to find a solution to a problem that many larger VoIP providers had simply not bothered to explore.

“The beauty of HostTALK is that it has addressed all of the connectivity and security issues that commonly occur in VoIP and found solutions for them.

“We are seeing an increased demand for businesses wanting to share a single telephony platform over multiple sites and with remote workers and as such the need for technologies like HostTALK has increased. As a result those who would benefit particularly from the HostTALK proposition are small to medium-sized organisations with multiple sites and those companies that encourage home and remote working.”

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