Welcome!

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Mobile IoT, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, @BigDataExpo, SDN Journal

@CloudExpo: Article

How the Cloud and VoIP Have Changed How People Work

VoIP & other IP-enabled, cloud-based collaboration tools play a major role in today's emerging wave of small business innovation

Telecommuting at one time meant little more than working from one's kitchen table, saving files onto a floppy disk, and possibly sending them into the office via dial-up modem. There was no videoconference, no softphones to move your office extension to wherever you were sitting at the moment, and no Google Hangouts, Chatters, or virtual meetings with colleagues.

Under such circumstances, telecommuting was relegated to second-tier employees that were cut out of the water-cooler loop. Because that early telecommuting lacked any semblance of true collaboration, and also because there was no oversight mechanisms built in, companies were reluctant to embrace it in any meaningful way.

Since Yahoo!'s Marissa Mayer made her pronouncement against telecommuting, issues of telepresence, telecommuting and teleworking have been in the news. Mayer is not alone in assuming that a remote worker environment is not conducive to productivity, or that it leaves those remote workers out of the inner circle. The informal and spontaneous discussions that happen in the office halls and break room are indeed vital to the health of the enterprise. The question at hand then is whether VoIP and telepresence technologies have advanced sufficiently to bridge that gap, and bring those home-bound workers back into the informal, more social element of the workplace. The answer is unequivocally "yes."

Something as simple as Salesforce Chatter allows for instant, ad hoc discussions throughout the day. It doesn't stop there. Today's telecommuting environment has succeeded in erasing those physical boundaries, and isn't just "the next best thing to being there," it is the same thing as being there.

When Did This Shift Happen?
We saw a shift from telecommuting being a largely disconnected function meant for production work done in isolation and with little oversight, to part of an ecosystem where individuals and groups collaborate in earnest from multiple remote locations. What happened to make this change? There are two main factors: the enabling technology, and the emergence of a different business model. Both components were necessary.

The enabling technology started with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which allowed for phone conversations to take place using a computer in any location, rather than a standard phone line. While the first VoIP implementations suffered from jitter and packet loss, advances in the technology and more prevalent availability of broadband soon rendered VoIP equivalent in quality to standard telephony. What's more important is that the digital nature of VoIP allowed many more features to be offered along with the phone service, and at low cost. Additional services came to be built on top of VoIP, such as videoconferencing, data sharing, and the like.

At the same time the enabling technology was evolving, business models were changing as well. The "lean" movement has been applied to a wide variety of practices, from software development, to business management. Today's businesses, initially out of economic necessity and then enabled by cloud and VoIP technology, have moved away from vertical structures into a new model of utilizing business process outsourcing, freelancers, teleworkers, and even crowdsourcing to not only accomplish routine day-to-day tasks, but also to manage, make decisions, and accomplish the creative side of the business.

The lean model took hold during the Great Recession. Typically during an economic downturn, companies look for ways to scale back, then when a recovery hits, they revert to their previous practices. Not so with the last Recession. Because of the length of the downturn and the slow recovery, companies were able to look at their refined practices, enabled by new technology, and make "lean" the new status quo.

Modern businesses rely more on external providers, connected via VoIP and other telepresence technologies.

(Source: Techie.com)

The evolution of VoIP and the evolution of the lean business model were symbiotic. Businesses embraced the lean model precisely when the enabling technology made doing so practical.

From Fuzzy Conversations to "Being There"
It wasn't just widespread availability of broadband that took the jitter out of VoIP and made it practical for business, it was the evolution of VoIP to include more than just simple voice calling. These additions are what made telecommuting practical, and brought those remote workers back into the water cooler gang.

The first and second waves of technologies that enabled telecommuting were indeed limited, and criticisms of the practice would be valid when issued against the yardstick of yesterday's technology. The first generation of telecommuters was enabled by basic technologies that allowed for a functional, but not social experience, and that did lead to isolation. Home-based workers were cut off from the herd and unable to participate in the social and group dynamics that make up a business. More recent generations of VoIP, telepresence, private social media, videoconferencing, and other telecommute-enabling technologies bring those workers back into the corporate family.

Meaningful telecommuting requires more than the ability to log onto a computer from home and send files. Real-time collaboration is essential, as are enhanced technologies such as unified communication, private instant messaging and social media platforms, and video collaboration, which are all typically based around Internet Protocol rather than the public switched telephone network.

Opening the Door for SMBs
Smaller businesses and startups have always struggled when it comes to implementing the latest technologies and embracing emerging trends. A small business with 10 or 20 people may have struggled financially to implement an on premise PBX. Doing so carries a significant capital expenditure, as well as ongoing operating expenses, and once implemented, the sunk costs prohibit the company from rapidly switching or upgrading to take advantage of new services as they become available. The result in the past has always been that smaller businesses simply did without advanced telephony features. Because cloud-enabled telephony today offers a more scalable service menu, it is much easier for a business of any size to add on capacity or additional services on an as-needed basis.

Most VoIP providers today offer affordable service packages with high-end features that were once available only to richer companies, and typically these services are implemented through a virtual PBX rather than a more costly on-premise one, and delivered via broadband connection from the cloud. Some of these services include:

  • Availability of an additional softphone, so an office extension can be accessed from any computer in any location
  • Call recording and voice transcription
  • Paperless VoIP fax to replace old-style office fax machines
  • Conferencing services
  • "Call pass" for transferring calls between your mobile and desk phone
  • Convenient "Click to call" button for your website

More sophisticated services include the ability to integrate with desktop CRM apps, to provide call recipients with immediate access to detailed caller information.

Taking VoIP to School
Use of VoIP in an educational setting illustrates well the power and evolution of the technology. Out-of-classroom learning, once limited to paper-based "correspondence courses," has evolved right along with corporate telecommuting, breaking down classroom barriers to allow more people to participate, and to participate in a meaningful way.

E-learning, like corporate telecommuting, has nurtured an environment in which the physical boundaries of the classroom become irrelevant, and students can interact and participate in real time. In the case of third world or emerging nations with vast rural areas, it has become a major factor in public education. In rural Thailand, for example, the Distance Learning Foundation, led by HM the King's right-hand man and Grand Chamberlain Khun Khwankeo Vajarodaya, links Wang Klaikangwon School in Hua Hin, founded as a school for noblemen's children and still seen as one of the best in the country, via satellite broadcast to remote schools all over the country. The goal - which has been enormously successful - is to bring first-rate education to rural children.

The program is more than just a one-way satellite hookup. Rural students hundreds of miles away participate directly in the session. Each rural classroom has Internet access courtesy of the Telephone Organization of Thailand, so that the remote students can ask and answer questions.

VoIP is bringing education to emerging nations. The technology is certainly not lost on modern universities throughout the world. Unlike the paper-based snail mail correspondence courses of days gone by, modern e-learning, enabled by VoIP technologies, brings several new characteristics to the table:

  • E-learning enhances access for those who are unable to come to a physical classroom. The disabled, those with small children at home, or people in underserved rural areas can attend courses.
  • E-learning today is highly interactive and visual. It's not just e-books. E-learning brings in components such as videoconferencing and live interaction, live text and voice chat, information sharing platforms, and shared screens to enhance the learning experience.
  • E-learning provides for instant feedback and metrics. Because it is inherently linked to the computer, teachers can take advantage of features like instant polls and compilation of responses, to provide for immediate feedback and monitoring.

Office Space Is Expensive. Launch a Virtual Company Instead.
VoIP and other IP-enabled, cloud-based collaboration tools have played a major role in today's emerging wave of small business innovation. By lowering the cost of entry to high-end telephony and collaboration, small, unfunded startups can gain access to these high-end services. More important, they can launch their startups using a new "virtual company" model in which the company has no physical office. Rather, the company is seen as being made up of the people that run it, rather than by its physical presence. The success of the virtual company model takes advantage of low-cost, VoIP-based telephony and collaboration, making it possible to replace high-cost real estate with affordable technology. This technology not only allows for the same type of collaboration, communication, and meetings as a startup would normally have in their trendy, expensive downtown office, but it allows for it to take place on a greatly enhanced basis that is even better than face-to-face.

More Stories By Calum MacKinnon

Calum MacKinnon has worked in the telecommunications sector for over 20 years and has been responsible for the architecture and design of many products in this space, having worked with some of the major players such as Motorola and AT&T. For the last eight years he has been heavily involved with VoIP and is one of the founding members of WhichVoIP.com,, a popular website dedicated to VoIP services.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Latest Stories
"We've discovered that after shows 80% if leads that people get, 80% of the conversations end up on the show floor, meaning people forget about it, people forget who they talk to, people forget that there are actual business opportunities to be had here so we try to help out and keep the conversations going," explained Jeff Mesnik, Founder and President of ContentMX, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Let’s face it, embracing new storage technologies, capabilities and upgrading to new hardware often adds complexity and increases costs. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Seth Oxenhorn, Vice President of Business Development & Alliances at FalconStor, discussed how a truly heterogeneous software-defined storage approach can add value to legacy platforms and heterogeneous environments. The result reduces complexity, significantly lowers cost, and provides IT organizations with improved efficienc...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Isomorphic Software will exhibit at DevOps Summit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Isomorphic Software provides the SmartClient HTML5/AJAX platform, the most advanced technology for building rich, cutting-edge enterprise web applications for desktop and mobile. SmartClient combines the productivity and performance of traditional desktop software with the simp...
"When you think about the data center today, there's constant evolution, The evolution of the data center and the needs of the consumer of technology change, and they change constantly," stated Matt Kalmenson, VP of Sales, Service and Cloud Providers at Veeam Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. He cited examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He also highlighted how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable ...
In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Yoseph Reuveni, Director of Software Engineering at Jet.com, will discuss Jet.com's journey into containerizing Microsoft-based technologies like C# and F# into Docker. He will talk about lessons learned and challenges faced, the Mono framework tryout and how they deployed everything into Azure cloud. Yoseph Reuveni is a technology leader with unique experience developing and running high throughput (over 1M tps) distributed systems with extre...
To leverage Continuous Delivery, enterprises must consider impacts that span functional silos, as well as applications that touch older, slower moving components. Managing the many dependencies can cause slowdowns. See how to achieve continuous delivery in the enterprise.
"delaPlex is a software development company. We do team-based outsourcing development," explained Mark Rivers, COO and Co-founder of delaPlex Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
We all know the latest numbers: Gartner, Inc. forecasts that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from last year, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. We're rapidly approaching a data production of 40 zettabytes a day – more than we can every physically store, and exabytes and yottabytes are just around the corner. For many that’s a good sign, as data has been proven to equal money – IF it’s ingested, integrated, and analyzed fast enough. Without real-ti...
"There's a growing demand from users for things to be faster. When you think about all the transactions or interactions users will have with your product and everything that is between those transactions and interactions - what drives us at Catchpoint Systems is the idea to measure that and to analyze it," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York Ci...
I wanted to gather all of my Internet of Things (IOT) blogs into a single blog (that I could later use with my University of San Francisco (USF) Big Data “MBA” course). However as I started to pull these blogs together, I realized that my IOT discussion lacked a vision; it lacked an end point towards which an organization could drive their IOT envisioning, proof of value, app dev, data engineering and data science efforts. And I think that the IOT end point is really quite simple…
As companies gain momentum, the need to maintain high quality products can outstrip their development team’s bandwidth for QA. Building out a large QA team (whether in-house or outsourced) can slow down development and significantly increases costs. This eBook takes QA profiles from 5 companies who successfully scaled up production without building a large QA team and includes: What to consider when choosing CI/CD tools How culture and communication can make or break implementation
Actian Corporation has announced the latest version of the Actian Vector in Hadoop (VectorH) database, generally available at the end of July. VectorH is based on the same query engine that powers Actian Vector, which recently doubled the TPC-H benchmark record for non-clustered systems at the 3000GB scale factor (see tpc.org/3323). The ability to easily ingest information from different data sources and rapidly develop queries to make better business decisions is becoming increasingly importan...
Big Data, cloud, analytics, contextual information, wearable tech, sensors, mobility, and WebRTC: together, these advances have created a perfect storm of technologies that are disrupting and transforming classic communications models and ecosystems. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Erik Perotti, Senior Manager of New Ventures on Plantronics’ Innovation team, provided an overview of this technological shift, including associated business and consumer communications impacts, and opportunities it ...