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WTF!? Curse nabs another $25 Million in Funding

wtf imageHey, gamers need great voice calling too, right?

Curse Voice, a VoIP communications platform for gamers announced yesterday that it has raised over $52 million in funding since the release of it’s voice platform. The company launched in 2014.

The platform enables players of some of the biggest games around to chat with fellow gamers: League of Legends, Minecraft, Smite, and Strife, among others. Curse is not the only game in town either; there are several alternatives, including Skype.

Currently Curse has over 1.3 million active users on its proprietary VoIP platform, with the company eyeing over 10 million active users by the end of this year. This pace would allow them to become the leading VoIP platform for gamers.

Say what you want about this specific application, but there’s no doubting that entrepreneurs and the investment community sees promise in voice platforms of all shapes and sizes. It’s amazing how quickly things change…yet stay the same.

Everyone needs voice.

Citrix Acquires Cloud Phone System Provider Grasshopper

grasshopper
The feeding frenzy around Cloud VoIP companies continues and this time it’s not an VoIP industry incumbent at the table.

Fresh off the news of Vonage’s acquisition of SimpleSignal for a total of $25 million, SAAS giant Citrix announced yesterday they were plucking Grasshopper, a cloud based phone system provider, from the field.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, though Grasshopper touts more than 150,000 entrepreneurs use their services, which starts at $12 per month. If these numbers are true, this would put Grasshopper’s annual revenues somewhere in the neighborhood of $22 million.

That’s a nice incremental revenue lift for Citrix, but what they’re clearly after is the customer base. Critix provides a number of other cloud based services that entrepreneurs utilize, such as GotoMeeting, which they clearly will try to cross promote to current Grasshopper users.

Current Critix customers will likely also now be able to leverage another service from the company, one they’re already using every day.

Selecting the Right Hosted VoIP Service

hostedvoipservice
If you’re looking to make the switch to VoIP you are going to come across a myriad of different solutions. One of the most popular being hosted VoIP.

What is Hosted VoIP?

Hosted VoIP is a service provided by a third party that gives you all of your phone system features and voice calling capabilities without having an actual VoIP phone system at your office. The only part of the system that you actual see are your VoIP Phones at your desk.

The hosted VoIP service provider, as they are commonly called, hosts your phone system functionality from their data center (or one that they lease from a data center provider). You are able to access your Hosted VoIP service via the internet, where you can configure users, extensions, menu’s, etc. The type of features you can get and the rates you pay, depend on the service provider.

Who Uses Hosted VoIP?

Hosted VoIP service from companies like Nextiva is used by companies of all sizes and industries, but is most popular with the small or micro-enterprise, typically 25 seats and under. Hosted VoIP service is a popular option for these companies because of the low up-front capital investment and predictable monthly billing.

If your company is looking to make the switch to VoIP with a limited budget, hosted VoIP would make great sense. Also, if your company lacks the staff or current knowledge required to manage your own VoIP system, hosted VoIP is probably they best thing for you!

How to Select Hosted VoIP Service?

Going about selecting hosted VoIP service for your company can get a little confusing. Today there are literally hundreds of different hosted VoIP providers who all look, sound and feel the same.

That’s because of a little known secret that most of these hosted VoIP services are running off of the same platform! That’s right, they may have different names, colors, packages and locations, but they are probably running off one of three popular platforms.

What does this mean for you? Well, to start, it means that things like price, features and VoIP phone choices should be pretty much the same across the board.

(Hence the confusing part of choice a provider.)

This makes the customer experience, the sign-up process, support systems, service level agreements and customer reviews the most important aspects of choosing a hosted VoIP provider.

  1. Customer Experience – Before selecting any hosted VoIP provider you should take the time to call into their office. Be prepared with questions about the companies history, expertise, service level agreements and levels of support. Get a feel for how the sales professional answers the questions by listening to his tone of voice, directness of answer and other clues that might expose a weakness in your experience as a customer.
  2. Support Systems – Things do go wrong and when they do, what matters most is quick, transparent assistance from technical support. Before purchasing hosted VoIP services make sure you find out what standard turnaround times are for support, local availability and even TEST OUT THEIR SYSTEM by submitting a ticket.
  3. Service Level Agreements (SLA) – Like support systems, your hosted provider’s service level agreement is a commitment to ensuring you have a great service experience. Every hosted VoIP provider should have an SLA in place, typically something that guarantees the service will be up more than 99% of the time.
  4. Customer Reviews – Most of the major hosted VoIP providers have a number of reviews of their service on various websites. In addition to this or if your provider is not large enough to have online reviews, ask for customer references. Then call them. Seriously, you can very often avoid disasters by speaking with real customers who have real experience with a company.

The Next Steps

After reading this, if you are ready to take the next steps in purchasing hosted VoIP service, you best bet is to write down everything you think you need, then contact up to five providers of hosted VoIP service. Once they contact you back, use the advice above to evaluate the best option for your company and then follow that providers lead.

How to Ensure VoIP Quality of Service

voip-quality-of-service
One of the historical knocks on VoIP has been that it isn’t always the most reliable or of the best quality. Two things you really want in a voice service, especially if your business depends on it.

So what are you to do when you really want to capitalize on the cost savings, flexibility and integration capabilities of VoIP service?

You start with an understanding of how you can ensure VoIP quality of service.

How to Ensure VoIP Quality of Service

There are five basic steps you can take to ensure VoIP quality of service. Let’s take a look at each of them.

  1. Internal Network Assessment – The first thing that you need to do is consider the health of your own internal VoIP network. The network, both internal and external, is the backbone of VoIP service. Taking a few hours to review your network topology, examine the infrastructure and testing to see if their is enough free bandwidth on your internal network to handle the additional VoIP traffic will prevent you from having internal network issues which very often plague VoIP quality of service.
  2. Internet Provider – Once you’ve given your internal network the once (or twice) over, it’s time to assess your internet providers ability to deliver VoIP traffic. Since most VoIP services today are sold “over the top”, the VoIP provider has little control over what happens as the voice packets travel across the open internet. This makes having a high quality, reliable provider a must…and enough bandwidth to send and receive your calls. Make sure you calculate what you will need. Just because you are saving some money on your voice minutes, doesn’t mean you won’t see increased internet costs!
  3. Network Monitoring – If your internal and external networks are up to snuff then the next thing to do is to install a network monitoring device. A network monitoring device allows you to analyze, report and receive alerts based on your network traffic. This is critical to troubleshooting quality of service issues, especially ones that only happen once in a blue moon.
  4. Service Provider SLA – Before you sign-up with any VoIP service provider, it’s important to ask them about their service level agreement and customer service experience. Most service providers have a standard service level agreement, which is a commitment to service up-time, but a few like Nextiva, have above average up-times and remarkably responsive customer service. Make sure you spend time understanding your service level agreement and even test out their responsiveness by sending in some tickets to their customer service department.
  5. Service Provider References – This is the step almost everyone misses. Most businesses experience VoIP quality of service issues because they picked the wrong VoIP service provider! It’s easy to be fooled, I get that VoIP’s not all you do. Simply take the time to ask them for a few reference customers. Call those customers and ask them questions in the same areas as your concerns. Then hit Google and read up on a few reviews. Remember that it’s more likely that a customer will complain then compliment in public, so just take that into account when you’re reading an awe inspiring tongue lashing. Mistakes happen.

Looking for more information on VoIP Quality of Service or Top Rated Service Providers??? Check out the VoIP Provider section to learn more about VoIP!

Hosted VoIP’s Worst Nightmare

The recent news of AT&T’s acquisition offer for T-Mobile USA got me thinking (and talking) about the small business voice space.

The small business space is very unique. It’s very unique because every single business is different and is looking for different things out of their voice service.

Two trends that have definitely emerged within space – regardless of the type of small business – is the need for flexibility and greater accessibility of voice service.

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