Direct Feed – January 2015

IT Operational Spending Among Positives for 2015

The rate of growth in IT operational budgets improved for the fourth year in a row in 2014, although at a rate that is about as slow and steady as it can get. At about one-tenth of a point increase year-to-year, the trend is positive, as it has been since 2011, and the slow improvement is in line with the low-inflation environment, according to researchers at Computer Economics.

As IT executives look ahead to 2015, however, they see a business climate that is improving and sustainable, if not stellar, leading to forecasts for 2015 that are not entirely bullish but do show conviction, says the IT market research firm. IT operational spending in 2015, for example, is expected to increase 3 percent at the median in the U.S. and Canada, suggests a survey of more than 200 IT executives. And while 3 percent is somewhat modest by historical standards, there is a sign of strength in that midsize organizations plan to grow IT operational budgets by 3.6 percent, suggesting the recovery is broadening its base in a significant way. Small organizations, meanwhile, are planning for only 2 percent growth in IT opex spending.

“Up until now, midsize and small organizations have lagged behind large enterprises,” say researchers at Computer Economics. “Small organizations remain tentative about their spending plans and the recovery is still not quite lifting all boats. It is, however, lifting more boats.”

All told, Computer Economics argues that any time more than half of IT organizations plan to increase their operational budgets, it leads to a positive outlook. That threshold was crossed in 2011. This year, however, the percentage experiencing budget improvements continues to increase, reaching 67 percent, shows the survey. That is up from 61 percent in the prior year, further reinforcing the observation that the recovery is broadening its base of participants. In terms of specific verticals, process manufacturing, retail/wholesale distribution and financial services sectors have the strongest growth in IT operational budgets. All three sectors are enjoying a 5 percent growth in IT operational budgets. Meanwhile, high-tech, professional and technical services, public/nonprofit and discrete manufacturing sectors are planning for below-average IT operational spending growth.

A majority of IT organizations (52 percent) also now plan to increase IT staff headcount. This is a significant development, showing that IT organizations are no longer reluctant to hire staff.

“We count permanent employees and contingency workers as part of the IT staff headcount, and this finding does not provide any insight into whether these workers are permanent or temporary,” says the Computer Economics study. “Still, many IT organizations are bringing on workers to support new systems and users.”

One cause for concern is that IT organizations are not investing in infrastructure, suggests the findings. While developing new systems rose to the top of the priority list for IT executives, the priority of upgrading infrastructure moved downward, languishing in seventh place among a list of IT budget priorities. This is reflected in capital spending plans. IT capital budgets are showing no growth at the median, the survey suggests.

Computer Economics researchers are unsure why organizations are putting capital spending on hold. They could simply be delaying infrastructure upgrades in the interest of cost containment or could be choosing to deploy an increasing number of systems in the cloud instead of with on-premises infrastructure, says the research firm. They also could just be pausing to digest previous investments.

“The latter explanation may be the most likely,” says Computer Economics. “Although the trend toward cloud systems is real, we do not believe it yet represents a significant portion of the IT budget for most organizations.” IT organizations are hiring, IT operational budgets are experiencing moderate growth, and IT executives are, for the most part, expressing confidence in their spending plans. “Perhaps what we are seeing is an adjustment to expectations for a long-term, slow-growth environment. IT operational budgets are rising in step with revenue, but the launching of new IT projects and initiatives remains limited and incremental.”

Even so, in a low-inflation, slow-growth environment, the survey results provide evidence that business leaders recognize the value in IT. “Our annual outlook survey indicates organizations are willing to invest in transformational technologies and are more concerned about improving service levels than reducing costs,” said John Longwell, vice president of research for Computer Economics.

Bit6 Adds PSTN Interoperability to SDKs

Bit6 is looking to help transform the app experience by allowing developers to easily embed real-time communication features into any mobile or Web application. In this vein, the communications-as-a-service platform provider announced the addition of PSTN integration capabilities for their iOS, Android and JavaScript software development kits.

The Bit6 platform, which is currently in beta, helps developers create new ways to deliver real-time voice, video and text/multimedia messaging capabilities that are integrated into their Web and mobile applications, says the company. With Bit6, app developers gain the ability to quickly add features that enable user-to-user communications across smartphones, feature phones, tablets and Web browsers. As a result of Bit6’s APIs now including PSTN interoperability, it’s possible for app users to initiate calls to landlines or mobile phones in addition to VoIP and WebRTC connectivity.

What’s more, app developers can use Bit6’s PSTN capabilities as a safety net in VoIP systems for critical functions such as customer support. If a VoIP connection is poor, the system can default to PSTN, reducing operational costs without sacrificing quality of service. In addition to PSTN integration, Bit6’s SDKs make it possible for app developers to integrate app-to-app messaging; real-time notifications; voice or video calling; and picture, video and location sharing into their apps.

“Providing PSTN interoperability gives app developers the best of both worlds – allowing them to leverage emerging communications technologies such as WebRTC, while also connecting with the large portion of the population that continues to rely on traditional landlines and mobile phones – and will continue to do so for many years to come,” said Bit6 CEO Alexey Goloshubin.

ANPI Enhances Partner Program for 2015

Hosted unified communications solutions provider ANPI announced substantial additions to its ANPI Premier Partner Program for 2015. New program elements include an automated proprietary operations support system/business support system (OSS/BSS) for complete supply chain and customer management, a service installation guarantee, a complete marketing and training resource center, a new multi-level commission structure, plus new sales promotions and agent incentives.

“We are so confident in our ability to deliver a superior customer experience, we are putting our money where our mouths are by committing to a delivery guarantee and adding industry-leading commission rates and SPIFFs, creating what we believe is the most powerful partner program in the business,” stated Mike Cromwell, ANPI chief sales officer.

The new Atlas OSS/BSS platform for customer lifecycle management provides agents a single Web-based portal for preparing quotes, proposals, placing orders and managing every aspect of their customer’s ANPI VIP experience, from installation to post-sales support, says the company.

“Atlas makes ordering fast and easy, and gives unprecedented views into the provisioning process, allowing our agents to know the status of their orders in real time,” said Matt Harty, president & CEO of master agent CNSG. “And the aggressive 3X SPIFFs promotion for new agents will help CNSG drive revenues like never before.”

Indeed, ANPI has implemented a multi-level commission structure that it says offers the highest rates in the industry for master agents and independent agents. As an incentive for joining the program, ANPI is paying agents 3X SPIFFs on their first three sales of the ANPI VIP Hosted UC solution. In addition, ANPI rewards top-performing agents through participation in the VIP Club.

Elsewhere, with a more streamlined and completely automated service delivery process, ANPI now guarantees installation dates for all ANPI VIP orders. If a guaranteed date is missed, the customer will receive their first month of service free. Moreover, orders that do not require porting or additional broadband will be installed within 14 business days.

And finally, ANPI has built an all-encompassing reference library containing a broad range of content, including product collateral, company information, product and promotional videos, presentations, sales and end-user training courses and materials, case studies, articles and white papers.

“From the beginning, we were excited about the ANPI Hosted UC offering and their unbelievable commitment to the channel,” said Dan Pirigyi, vice president of master agent TCG Partners. “Their promotions and excellent upfront bonuses have been a definite hit with our agents. We look forward to a long and prosperous relationship.”

ANPI also announced its new ANPI VIP Call Center as a major addition to its full-featured ANPI VIP Hosted UC solution. Designed for SMBs requiring call center functionality, the solution optimizes the effectiveness of call center agents by distributing and routing calls to the most appropriate agent, based on selected attributes and designed for each call queue. Meanwhile, call center supervisors can manage agents and key performance indicators with real-time monitoring and on-demand reports.

There are three licenses available with the ANPI VIP Call Center – Call Center User, Call Center Agent Client (Web-based client that provides agents additional call management tools) and Call Center Supervisor Client (a Web-based client that supports management of agent queues, call monitoring and the ability to prioritize or redirect calls).

Digium Signs Agent Agreement with Sandler Partners

Asterick provider Digium announced that Sandler Partners, a master agency headquartered in Hermosa Beach, Calif., has joined the Digium Cloud Agent Program as a master agent. The partnership allows Sandler Partners’ agents the opportunity to expand their portfolios with Digium’s Switchvox Cloud Unified Communications phone system, while maximizing commissions in the rapidly growing cloud services market.

More than a hosted VoIP PBX, Switchvox Cloud is an affordably priced, full-featured UC cloud solution, says the company. Digium’s unique “all features included” pricing model for Switchvox Cloud takes the guesswork and complexity out of choosing and deploying an advanced business phone system.

“We have an abundance of successful, professionally run VoIP companies in our portfolio,”  said Alan Sandler, founder and managing partner of Sandler Partners. “We specifically wanted to work with Digium to provide our agents with a comprehensive unified communications phone system that is highly customizable. Switchvox Cloud provides our more hands-on and technical agents a solution that can be tailored to solve almost any business communications’ need.”

CarrierSales Appoints Heaps as Channel Chief

Utah-based master agency CarrierSales has announced the appointment of Jon Heaps as vice president of sales. Heaps will be responsible for directing CarrierSales’ ongoing channel initiatives in telecom, mobility, cloud and data.

A longtime channel veteran, Heaps has more than 20 years of experience in sales, marketing and business management with leading software technology and telecommunications providers, including inContact, Qwest Communications and 2021 Interactive Software.

“Bringing Jon on board is the next step in our growth and evolution,” said Richard Murray, president of CarrierSales. “In addition to his market know-how, he represents everything that I want CarrierSales to stand for: relationships, integrity and standing up for the partner and the customer.”

Prior to CarrierSales, Heaps was vice president of channels at call center specialist inContact. He also held the position of vice president of long-distance sales and operations during his 11-year stint there. As such, one of his guiding initiatives for 2015 will be to broaden CarrierSales’ contact center focus.

“CarrierSales has built a different kind of master agency, and it’s one of the best-kept secrets in the channel,” Heaps said. “Rather than being all things to all people, we look to set ourselves apart in our customer engagement model and the ability for our partners to fulfill real-world business needs with a diverse and tactical portfolio.”

In addition to contact centers, mobility will be another initiative for 2015, he added. The company recently completed the acquisition of another master agency, CMS, which brings a focused competency in wireless services and mobility management into the CarrierSales stable. And, the agency will continue to offer focused IT services, such as virtualization and data center services, as part of a package with connectivity.

Telarix Adds JeraSoft to iXLink Community

JeraSoft, a provider of VoIP solutions and billing software, now has the ability to integrate its products to the iXLink business-to-business information exchange platform, providing customers with access to a community of more than 3,800 carriers using the system.

“We are pleased to offer an additional level of service to our clients” said Mike Stukalin, vice president of sales at JeraSoft. “We recognize iXLink’s importance in the marketplace; it made sense to provide our clients seamless integration to the platform that so many carriers are already utilizing.”

“By integrating their products with iXLink, JeraSoft customers are now able to further elevate their business and seamlessly connect to other carriers around the world,” added Vic Bozzo, senior vice president of worldwide sales and marketing at Telarix. “We look forward to helping JeraSoft’s customers realize the power of integration and automation.”

Powernet Rolls Out Comprehensive Wellness Benefits

Business communications technology provider Powernet has announced major changes to its employee benefits program and a sereis of corporate culture initiatives focused on wellness and employee engagement. The move was spurred by CEO Alli Stevens, who said she wants the family-owned company to embrace its role as a people-first business not only when it comes to clients but employees as well.

The new benefits package includes increased vacation time to a minimum of five weeks per year for all employees; a $400 annual wellness credit to be used on a gym membership, exercise equipment or other resources used to improve personal wellness; one “Wellness PTO” day per year for physicals, dental exams or other wellness-related activities; and a one-year pass to Hamilton County Parks.

“We believe the workplace should enable employees to engage in their own well-being, not stand in the way of it,” says Stevens. “Whether that comes through more time with family or just taking a day to get your annual physical out of the way, we want to give our employees options to help them create a better and healthier work-life balance.”

In addition to new benefits, Powernet has created a new position that will ensure this focus is an ongoing part of the culture. The manager of employee experience and community affairs will be responsible for increasing engagement in company activities and wellness programs, coming up with new ideas to improve office culture and seeking out ways for employees to engage with the community outside the office, said the company.

The newly announced benefits will take effect in 2015. Additional perks, such as new office amenities and wellness education programs, are expected to be announced some time in 2015, as well.

Most Local Access Purchases Near Bottom of Wide Price Ranges

Local access prices vary widely. That may come as little surprise. But according to new findings from TeleGeography, the wide variation even can be seen within a given city.

Indeed, the highest price paid for a standard service such as 10Mbps Ethernet is often five to 10 times greater than the lowest price in the same city. However, data from TeleGeography’s Local Access Pricing Service suggest that most buyers should expect to pay a price closer to the low end of the price range than to the market high.

For example, in Amsterdam, prices paid for 10Mbps local access circuits in the second half of 2013 ranged from just $68 (USD) to $1,907 per month. While the high price was 28 times greater than the low, the bulk of customers purchased loops closer to the median monthly price of $255. Similarly, Mumbai demonstrated a large range of monthly prices for 10Mbps loops, with a low price of $130 and a high price nearly 10 times that, at $1,289. However, the median price was just 10 percent above the low, at $143, indicating that most transactions were clustered tightly near the bottom of the range, say TeleGeography researchers. London and Toronto also displayed a wide range of prices, from $152 to $713, and $365 to $1,380, respectively, but their median prices of $290 and $439 per month were both much nearer the bottom of the price range than the top.

This pattern also holds true in more expensive markets. In Sao Paulo, where the highest price of $4,672 per month was 500 percent above the low of $771, the median price was $1,216, just 58 percent above the market low. Similarly, in Johannesburg, the high price of $5,814 was more than 700 percent greater than the low price of $714, while the $1,696 median was a more modest 137 percent above the low.

New York is a notable exception to this pattern. In the first half of 2013, the median price paid for 10Mbps Ethernet access circuits was $1,162 per month, more than 500 percent above the low price of $191, and nearer to the market high of $1,724. This discrepancy may be attributable to the relative immaturity of the U.S. Ethernet market because the pattern of median prices clustering in the low end of the price range does hold true for T1 circuits in New York, say TeleGeography researchers. As the U.S. Ethernet market catches up with those of Europe and parts of Asia, median prices should start to fall.

“While horror stories about exorbitant local loop costs abound, buyers should recognize that transactions at the top end of the price range generally reflect unique circumstances, or buildings that lack competitive providers,” said TeleGeography analyst Greg Bryan. “Most local access circuits connect to customer sites in buildings that are served by multiple providers, so median prices reflect these more competitive rates.”

P2 telecom, NextStep Partner on Equipment Services

P2 telecom, LLC, a provider of intelligent, integrated network telecommunications solutions and services for network carriers, announced the formation of P2 Equipment Services, LLC in conjunction with NextStep Technology Solutions, LLC. With more than 40 years of experience in the networking and communications product world, P2 Equipment Services will deliver end-to-end solutions featuring Samsung’s Wireless Enterprise portfolio, servicing the evolving needs of companies of all sizes.

As a Samsung Authorized Gold Partner, P2 Equipment Services will provide its North American carrier partners with the full range of Samsung’s WLAN Solution offerings, enhancing its ability to deliver a wireless work environment and provide customers with quality and seamless services of voice, video and data connectivity.

“Our customers look to us to help design optimal communications solutions to streamline network, products, software and technical support,” said Bill Patchett, CEO, P2 Equipment Services. “Samsung’s Wireless Enterprise technology is something they’ve been looking for, and we’re pleased to now offer such a comprehensive solution.”

National Network Expansion on Tap at Transbeam

New York City-based Transbeam is on the move in 2015, with a new sales executive, network expansion plans and an enhanced channel partner program.

New senior sales vice president Jim DaBramo is now heading up enterprise and channel sales for the company. DaBramo previously was with UNSi and has more than 30 years of experience building successful sales organizations for various telecom companies.

Meanwhile, Transbeam, known mostly as a competitive provider of Ethernet and fiber solutions in the Northeast area, is strategically expanding its network nationwide into key NFL cities that are aligned with its expansion plan. Transbeam also recently enhanced its channel sales team by hiring  industry veterans strategically located throughout the U.S. and has reorganized its existing team to focus more on dedicated account management, said the company. This is a result of Transbeam’s growth strategy plus feedback from recent customer surveys that Transbeam initiated and carefully reviewed, said company executives.

Transbeam offers a broad array of data, hosted voice, professional IT services, event connectivity and cloud services, all running over Transbeam’s own nationwide carrier-class Gigabit IP network. Its data services portfolio consists of broadband, MPLS, Ethernet over copper, Ethernet over fiber and wireless backup services. Voice services include hosted PBX, PRI and SIP trunking, E-POTS and analog POTS lines. The Transbeam Professional IT services consist of backup and recovery, internal wiring and Wi-Fi installation.

Its Event Connectivity division provides high-bandwidth service and onsite support for many large venues and their conferences, concerts and trade shows, said the company. The Westminister Dog Show, the NFL Draft, the Brooklyn Half Marathon, “America’s Got Talent” and the Tony Awards are just a sampling of the events that Transbeam services and supports, ensuring these highly visible events have no connectivity glitches, supporting high-bandwidth demands and thousands of devices.

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