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Archive for July, 2010

Report: Most data breaches tied to organized crime

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Organized criminals were responsible for 85 percent of all stolen data last year and of the unauthorized access incidents, 38 percent of the data breaches took advantage of stolen login credentials, according to the 2010 Verizon Data Breach Investigations report to be released on Wednesday.

While external agents were behind 70 percent of the breaches, nearly 50 percent were caused by insiders and only 11 percent were attributed to business partners, concluded the report, which focused on data breaches that took place in 2009.

The study combined data from investigations and statistics worldwide compiled by Verizon and the U.S. Secret Service in which 141 cases were analyzed involving more than 143 million compromised data records, compared with the more than 360 million records compromised in 2008.

Most of the externally originated breaches came from Eastern Europe, North America, and East Asia, the data shows.

Nearly 50 percent of breaches involved misuse of user privileges, while 40 percent resulted from hacking, 38 percent used malware, 28 percent used social engineering tactics, and about 15 percent were physical attacks.

There was not one single confirmed intrusion that exploited a patchable vulnerability, reflecting that fact that many of the most common hacking methods–SQL injection, stolen credentials, and backdoors–exploit problems that can’t be readily patched.

“Attackers really do seem to be not so much concerned with finding software vulnerabilities as much as finding types of misconfigurations that let them in the door,” Wade Baker, director of risk intelligence for Verizon Business, told CNET on Tuesday.

Ninety-six percent of the breaches in the study were avoidable through simple or intermediate controls and nearly 80 percent of the victims who are subject to PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) guidelines had not achieved compliance.

Factoring in the Secret Service data, Verizon’s data breach investigations span six years, more than 900 breaches and more than 900 million compromised records.

Meanwhile, a Ponemon Institute report released earlier this week found that the median annualized cost of cybercrime for 45 organizations that participated in the study was $3.8 million per year and data theft accounts for the greatest amount of total external costs.

Sprint sees sales slip as subscribers rise

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

By Lance Whitney

Sprint Nextel’s hot new phones are helping boost the number of subscribers for the first time in a long time. Even so, the company’s second-quarter results were down.

For the quarter ended June 30, the wireless carrier reported a net loss of $760 million, compared with a loss of $384 million in the year-ago quarter. Sales dipped to $8.025 billion, a 1.4 percent decline from last year’s $8.141 billlion.

On the plus side, Sprint added 111,000 new wireless subscribers for the quarter, its first signs of growth in three years and a welcome improvement from past quarters when the company was shedding customers at a record pace.

Demand for smartphones such as the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8530 and the new HTC Evo 4G helped raise the number of new postpaid subscribers to 136,000 on the company’s CDMA network and 285,000 for the Sprint brand.

Sprint also saw fewer people exiting its service for the quarter as it brought home its best-ever subscriber churn rate of only 1.85 percent, compared with 2.05 percent in the year-ago quarter. The churn rate for prepaid customers also showed improvement, dropping to 5.61 percent versus 6.38 percent a year ago.

Introduced during the second quarter, the Evo 4G was the first 4G smartphone to debut in the United States. Sprint added its 4G service to eight new markets during the quarter, reaching a total of 43 markets and potentially 51 million people across the U.S. The carrier expects to cover around 120 million people by the end of the year as its 4G partner Clearwire ramps up deployments in Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

Sprint recently announced its second 4G phone–the Samsung Epic 4G–for which it plans to reveal pricing and a release date in the next few months.

For the quarter, the company also made progress in customer satisfaction. After a long stretch of weak customer service and a shaky reputation, Sprint has strived to improve its image over the past couple of years, leading to recent awards and accolades from Gartner, Forrester, and the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

“Our intense focus for the past ten quarters on improving the customer experience, strengthening our brands, and generating cash are paying off,” CEO Dan Hesse said in a statement. “With strong cash flow, stable OIBDA (operating income before depreciation and amortization), and widespread third-party recognition for the improvements we’re making in the customer experience, which in turn strengthens our brands, we feel we can confidently improve our subscriber forecasts for the second half of 2010 and deliver positive total net wireless subscriber additions for the remainder of the year.”

Telephone equipment makers make most of Lucent’s woes

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

By Wylie Wong

A day after Lucent Technologies warned of lower profits, shares of rivals Nortel Networks, Ciena Systems and other telephone equipment makers skyrocketed today.

Investors abandoned Murray Hill, N.J.-based Lucent’s stock yesterday after the company announced its first quarter will miss earnings by 15 cents to 18 cents per share and sales will fall $1 billion below Wall Street analysts’ estimates.

The earnings shortfall is the most significant problem Lucent has faced in its young history since spinning off from AT&T in 1996. Lucent executives blamed its first revenue shortfall on the company’s inability to meet customer demand for optical networking equipment, lower software sales, and flat growth in wireless equipment.

Rival phone equipment makers took immediate advantage of Lucent’s misery. Executives from Nortel, Alcatel, Newbridge Networks and Ericsson all announced that their companies will meet analyst’s estimates for their fall quarters–and investors today flocked to their stocks.

“The message people are taking away is that Lucent screwed up,” said analyst Martin Pyykkonen of CIBC World Markets. “Their conclusion is that Lucent must be losing something to (its competitors), that they might be good at beating Lucent to some degree–such as Ericsson in the wireless market, Cisco with the (Internet data) infrastructure, and Nortel and Ciena with optical equipment.”

Lucent’s stock stabilized today, inching up 1 point–but its competitors soared. At 1 p.m. PT, the close of regular market trading, Nortel shares were up 20.25, or 27 percent, to 97.25, while Ciena’s shares gained 11.88, or 26 percent, to 57.75.

Shares of Ericsson increased 8 percent, Cisco and Newbridge Networks rose 6 percent, and Alcatel increased 5 percent.

While Lucent is considered a bellwether for the telecommunications equipment industry, analysts say rival companies didn’t take hits in their stocks today because Lucent’s troubles is not indicative of the market, where Cisco’s sales jumped 49 percent last quarter and Nortel’s revenue increased 30 percent.

“The basic message is that this is an issue specific to Lucent, and not telecom-market related,” said analyst Joseph Bellace, of Jefferies & Co.

Analyst Paul Sagawa, of Sanford C. Bernstein, said Nortel is in the best position to capitalize on Lucent’s woes in the optical market. Cisco, which recently made acquisitions in the optical arena, won’t release products until later this year, he said.

Earlier this year, Nortel also had trouble meeting customer demand for optical equipment, he said. As a result, the company recently invested $400 million to build more manufacturing plants to increase production.

“It’s good for Nortel, but I don’t know if they can add a lot (more) capacity,” he said.

Lucent believes it will back on track by the second half of 2000. Some analysts agree, but others remain skeptical as they downgraded the company’s stock today.

“Lucent’s stock is on sale and it’s cheap merchandise, but I wouldn’t buy it today,” said Pyykkonen, who downgraded the stock from “buy” to “hold.”

“The company has put a lot of burden on growth on the second half of the year,” he added. “It’s like a football game: You’re down 21-0 midway through the first quarter. You say you’ve got potential to win, but I want to see that it’s 21-14 by half-time.”

Chinese market mirrors potential of Verizon iPhone

Monday, July 26th, 2010

 

By Daniel Eran Dilger

China Mobile, the world’s largest cellular provider with more than a half billion subscribers, wants Apple to develop a custom iPhone for use on its unique TD-SCDMA 3G network. There’s a lot at stake, and the situation reveals some clues about about the potential for a CDMA iPhone for Verizon Wireless here in the US.

China’s TD-SCDMA experiment

Like the US, mobile providers in China are split between a 3GPP GSM/UMTS mobile network (run by China Unicom, using technology similar to AT&T and T-Mobile in the US) and Qualcomm’s CDMA/EVDO (operated by China Telecom, similar to Verizon and Sprint in the US). However, the Chinese government has also worked to develop a third, incompatible 3G cellular standard known as TD-SCDMA

That work was done in order to build out parallel new mobile infrastructure that would not be reliant upon Western technology, and could therefore avoid paying patent royalties to the companies that developed it including Nokia and Qualcomm. A license to build out a TD-SCDMA, 3G mobile network was awarded to the state owned China Mobile in 2009; it previously only operated a 2G GSM/GPRS network.

Like Google’s effort to deliver WebM/VP8 as a free video codec alternative to H.264, the Chinese effort to build out TD-SCDMA as a royalty free 3G network is fraught with infringement risks, because the complex technology involved in spread spectrum radio transmission is a patent minefield.

This situation mirrors the problems China experienced in attempting to create its own Western-royalty free alternative to DVD, which it called EVD. Somewhat ironically, that project used VP5 and VP6 video codecs from On2, the same company Google acquired to deliver WebM. EVD subsequently failed, and On2 ended up with no valid claims from its Chinese partners, leaving the company to recycle its efforts in taking on DVD’s MPEG-2 with today’s efforts to rival MPEG-4 H.264 on the web.

China Mobile calls for custom iPhone, gets put on hold

However, China is still intent upon pushing TD-SCDMA, and China Mobile has been working to woo Apple into building a custom iPhone to take advantage of the carrier’s new 3G network, as it currently lacks a standout 3G phone to attract subscribers to the faster data network now being extended across the country.

Back in March, the carrier’s chief executive Wang Jianzhou told the Financial Times that “including TD-SCDMA is not that hard to do,” adding that “RIM is doing it.” He said China Mobile wants to increase its 3G subscriber base from just under 4 million to at least 10 million this year. The balance of its subscribers are all still using 2G GSM/GPRS.

Last fall, Apple non-exclusively partnered with China Unicom, the second largest provider in China (and the ninth largest worldwide with 147,000 subscribers), to distribute the iPhone. It’s the easiest Chinese carrier for Apple to accommodate, given that it runs a GSM/UMTS network like AT&T and other existing iPhone carriers worldwide.

While China Unicom has far fewer total subscribers than China Mobile (149 million vs. 527 million), it has 3.6 million subscribers on its 3G network, compared to China Mobile’s 3.9 3G users (as of the end of January). Both carriers offer huge potential opportunities for dramatically increasing Apple’s sales, although partnering with China Mobile requires far more work, as its TS-SCDMA is not just different but less mature. At the same time, China Mobile has the resources to build out its network faster, if it can find a popular phone to drive interest among its half billion subscribers.

WiFi rules, high prices stagnate sales

In addition to pushing TD-SCDMA, The Chinese government has also worked to push its own WAPI wireless networking standard in place of IEEE 802.11 WiFi, and subsequently outlawed the import, sale, and use of WiFi equipment in China. That had an averse impact on Apple’s iPhone sales through China Unicom, as the company was forced to remove WiFi from the phones it sold there.

That WiFi restriction and subsequent handicapping of the iPhone in China appeared to depress interest in the China Unicom phone, with just 5,000 units reported sold at its launch last November.

Sales have improved a bit since, and relaxed rules that now allow WiFi should enable Apple to begin selling more attractive, WiFi capable iPhones. Official sales of the iPhone in China are also hindered by high prices: the $730-$1020 price tag is much higher than the cost of grey market iPhones brought into the country through Hong Kong.

Will Apple break its universal iPhone model?

Getting the iPhone selling in China is clearly a top priority for Apple. Its current reliance on China Unicom is expected to grow as the company launches its stock version of iPhone 4, with WiFi intact, to the Chinese market in August. If that launch is successful, it will no doubt entrench Apple’s current strategy of selling one global iPhone model.

That would also likely mean that an iPhone wouldn’t make it to Verizon until either LTE becomes widely available in a year or two (enabling Apple to build a single UMTS/LTE model it can sell globally), or until a hybrid GSM/UMTS/CDMA baseband chip becomes available for Apple to build an iPhone that can roam across both 3GPP and Qualcomm networks.

If a global iPhone proves too expensive or complicated to build, the company may begin targeting significant markets with custom new models, including Sprint and Verizon’s CDMA/EVDO networks in the US, and China Mobile’s TD-SCDMA. Currently, the lack of Apple’s presence in both those areas has provided an opportunity for Android phones.

In fact, the only two markets globally where Android phones even approach the sales of iPhones, according to Google’s AdMob figures, are the US and China. And that’s only when AdMob calculates the entire installed base of iPhones and iOS devices to be 27 million and 40 million respectively, compared to the 60 million iPhones and 100 million iOS devices that have actually sold.

In addition to the TD-SCDMA RIM BlackBerry phones under development for sale by China Mobile, Nokia currently sells Symbian phones that work on the Chinese standard, and a variety of Android makers, including Lenovo, Motorola and Samsung, have also announced or begun selling TD-SCDMA

Tense Apple-AT&T iPhone partnership nearly ended multiple times

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

  The tense relationship between Apple and AT&T is detailed in this month’s issue of Wired magazine. Though the article is not yet available online, it was summarized Monday by Jason D. O’Grady of ZDNet.

The article compares the relationship between AT&T and Apple as a loveless celebrity marriage — one that went wrong quickly after the honeymoon ended. Apple was unwilling to restrict the Internet capabilities of the iPhone, while AT&T struggled to meet the overwhelming pressure the smartphone placed on its network.

An anonymous source told the magazine that Jobs discussed severing ties with AT&T at least a half-dozen times. At one point in 2007, Apple engineers allegedly visited the headquarters of Qualcomm to consider the prospect of creating a CDMA iPhone for the rival network. EVentually, the company concluded it would have to rebuild the phone from scratch to fit the new chips inside, making the prospect too costly and complicated.

The article also alleges that Qualcomm also began working on a chip that will allow the iPhone to work on both the AT&T and Verizon networks. Recent reports have alleged that Apple will offer a CDMA iPhone for the Verizon network in January 2011.

One of many spats between the companies was said to be regarding tethering: Apple wanted it to be included in the standard data plan charges, while AT&T wanted to charge extra. AT&T eventually won that alleged battle, as it now offers tethering via USB or Bluetooth for an extra $20 per month.

The report also said that AT&T took issue with the fact that the iPhone uses a radio from Infineon, a company that previously had been most widely used in Europe, where cell towers are more common. AT&T allegedly felt that Apple’s use of an Infineon chip led to inferior reception. When the wireless carrier asked Apple to resolve the issues “together,” it was said that Apple’s response was, “No, you resolve them. They’re not our problem. They’re your problem.”

The companies apparently squabbled over small things as well, as the two corporate cultures did not mesh well. At one point, an AT&T representative reportedly told one of Jobs’ deputies that the company co-founder should wear a suit to meet with the AT&T Board of Directors. That AT&T employee was allegedly told, “We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits.

7 Reasons to Add SIP Trunking to Your Telephone System

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

By James Waldrop

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) usually brings to mind popular consumer services such as Vonage, Skype and Google Voice. Many businesses have replaced their old telephone systems with VoIP through services commonly called Hosted VoIP, Hosted PBX, IP Centrex & Virtual PBX from business VoIP providers. However, integrating VoIP with legacy telephone systems is gaining popularity through Session Initiation Protocol or SIP trunking.

SIP trunking is not limited to newer telephone systems that can accept them directly. Older telephone systems can use a SIP trunk with the aid of an integration box. Here is a list of SIP trunk benefits that most any telephone system can take advantage:

1. Direct Inward Dial (DID) DID is a telephone number that rings directly to a desk phone or a department. The number can be published on business cards, the Internet and directories or it can be private. Older telephone systems require expensive circuits or telephone lines for DID. Newer digital systems can handle DID with the use of a Primary Rate Interface (PRI) circuit. Although PRIs are an efficient way to take advantage of DIDs, they can be costly for telephone systems of 20 phones or less. SIP trunks can provide DIDs economically for very small phone systems.

2. Publish Local Numbers in other Market Areas The 10 digit telephone numbers that point to SIP trunks are not limited by geographical areas. A telephone system located in Dallas could have local numbers on its from Dallas, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. Someone calling the local Chicago telephone number would have no idea that they are talking to someone in Dallas.

3. Stop Guessing at the Required Number of Telephone Lines Most businesses with older phone systems almost always guess at the number of telephone lines that they need. The penalty for guessing wrong is paying too much for too many lines or losing business and frustrating callers with too few. Although many SIP services are priced base upon the number of concurrent calls that they will pass, the price point for each path is significantly less than traditional service. In addition, many SIP providers can advise on whether a business has the correct number of concurrent call paths.

4. Back-Up Circuits Companies that experience periods of heavy call volume or cannot afford to be without telephone service can employ SIP trunks as back-up. SIP Trunks affordable price makes them a better alternative than other options. If the Internet provider is a cable company or wireless ISP, SIP trunks can also offer a diverse cable route into the building since they are delivered over the Internet.

5. Disaster Recovery SIP trunk providers deliver their service from ’soft’ switches that are far more flexible than the large hardware central office switches of large telephone companies. Beyond providing a diverse cable route into the business, many SIP trunk providers can automatically re-route calls to other 10 digit telephone numbers including mobile phones in the event they lose contact with their customer. Further, they can process calls through automated attendants and voicemail at their Point of Presence (POP).

6. Unlimited Long Distance SIP trunk services are delivered with a wide variety of price packages. Businesses can easily find a package that will meet their needs. Some packages include unlimited domestic long distance within the Continental United States. SIP trunks can be used for outbound long distance calls only, turning exorbitant long distance bills into a flat monthly rate.

7. Quickly Re-configure Service to Meet Changing Needs The ’soft’ switch architecture of SIP trunk providers allows them to be agile in meeting a changing customer’s needs. They can quickly add and subtract features and concurrent calls paths within hours and without sending a service technician on-site.

SIP trunks can add value and enhance the features of any telephone system including old legacy systems. They adapt quickly, control costs and offer features not available from standard telephone line service. With the aid of integration boxes, any business can start taking advantage of VoIP and its many benefits without changing out their complete telephone system.

Verizon preparing for possible arrival of iPhone in 2010 – report

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

  By AppleInsider Staff

  Verizon, the largest wireless provider in the U.S., is reportedly investing in its network to make it capable of handling extra traffic from Apple’s iPhone, a company official said.

 In an interview with BusinessWeek, Anthony Melone, Verizon Wireless’ chief technology officer, said his company is prepared if Apple decides to end its exclusive agreement with AT&T in 2010.

“We have put things in place already,” Melone reportedly said. “We are prepared to support that traffic.”

The company official did not, however, comment on the prospect of the iPhone becoming available on Verizon. But various reports as of late have suggested Apple could be working with chip-maker Qualcomm for a CDMA-capable iPhone that could run on the Verizon network. While there is some debate as to whether the phone would be a dual-mode, also compatible with GSM networks, or solely CDMA, reports have pegged the new handset for a possible launch in the third quarter of 2010.

 Some analysts believe a Verizon iPhone in 2010 is a very likely scenario. Piper Jaffray believes there is a 70 percent chance Apple will launch the handset in mid-calendar year 2010. With 89 million customers, Verizon would add a great number of potential customers for Apple to expand the iPhone to.

But some others believe that a deal between Apple and Verizon would be too complicated, citing the incompatibility of the current phone with its network, and also the conflicting interests between the two companies. Others have viewed T-Mobile as a potential candidate, as it and AT&T are the only nationwide GSM networks in the U.S.

Verizon has invested nearly $19 billion in its wireless network over the last three years, and made acquisitions of companies like Alltell to improve its network. Melone said his company’s investment in its network is evidence that it takes its service seriously.

AT&T’s network, meanwhile, has struggled since the launch of the iPhone 3GS, and key features like multimedia messaging and tethering were delayed to prevent a strain on the network. But Melone told BusinessWeek that Verizon would not have those same issues.

“We will handle it if we ever get it,” he said.

Chinese market mirrors potential of Verizon iPhone

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

 

By Daniel Eran Dilger

China Mobile, the world’s largest cellular provider with more than a half billion subscribers, wants Apple to develop a custom iPhone for use on its unique TD-SCDMA 3G network. There’s a lot at stake, and the situation reveals some clues about about the potential for a CDMA iPhone for Verizon Wireless here in the US.

China’s TD-SCDMA experiment

Like the US, mobile providers in China are split between a 3GPP GSM/UMTS mobile network (run by China Unicom, using technology similar to AT&T and T-Mobile in the US) and Qualcomm’s CDMA/EVDO (operated by China Telecom, similar to Verizon and Sprint in the US). However, the Chinese government has also worked to develop a third, incompatible 3G cellular standard known as TD-SCDMA

That work was done in order to build out parallel new mobile infrastructure that would not be reliant upon Western technology, and could therefore avoid paying patent royalties to the companies that developed it including Nokia and Qualcomm. A license to build out a TD-SCDMA, 3G mobile network was awarded to the state owned China Mobile in 2009; it previously only operated a 2G GSM/GPRS network.

Like Google’s effort to deliver WebM/VP8 as a free video codec alternative to H.264, the Chinese effort to build out TD-SCDMA as a royalty free 3G network is fraught with infringement risks, because the complex technology involved in spread spectrum radio transmission is a patent minefield.

This situation mirrors the problems China experienced in attempting to create its own Western-royalty free alternative to DVD, which it called EVD. Somewhat ironically, that project used VP5 and VP6 video codecs from On2, the same company Google acquired to deliver WebM. EVD subsequently failed, and On2 ended up with no valid claims from its Chinese partners, leaving the company to recycle its efforts in taking on DVD’s MPEG-2 with today’s efforts to rival MPEG-4 H.264 on the web.

China Mobile calls for custom iPhone, gets put on hold

However, China is still intent upon pushing TD-SCDMA, and China Mobile has been working to woo Apple into building a custom iPhone to take advantage of the carrier’s new 3G network, as it currently lacks a standout 3G phone to attract subscribers to the faster data network now being extended across the country.

Back in March, the carrier’s chief executive Wang Jianzhou told the Financial Times that “including TD-SCDMA is not that hard to do,” adding that “RIM is doing it.” He said China Mobile wants to increase its 3G subscriber base from just under 4 million to at least 10 million this year. The balance of its subscribers are all still using 2G GSM/GPRS.

Last fall, Apple non-exclusively partnered with China Unicom, the second largest provider in China (and the ninth largest worldwide with 147,000 subscribers), to distribute the iPhone. It’s the easiest Chinese carrier for Apple to accommodate, given that it runs a GSM/UMTS network like AT&T and other existing iPhone carriers worldwide.

While China Unicom has far fewer total subscribers than China Mobile (149 million vs. 527 million), it has 3.6 million subscribers on its 3G network, compared to China Mobile’s 3.9 3G users (as of the end of January). Both carriers offer huge potential opportunities for dramatically increasing Apple’s sales, although partnering with China Mobile requires far more work, as its TS-SCDMA is not just different but less mature. At the same time, China Mobile has the resources to build out its network faster, if it can find a popular phone to drive interest among its half billion subscribers.

Business Telephone Equipment – How to Select The Right Phone System?

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Effective communication in business

is crucial to having good relationships with customers, associates and partners. A well-organized and intelligently used phone system can help a business serve its customers more efficiently, and share ideas and information with associates and partners effectively.

Before purchasing a phone system for your business, you should think about why you need a phone system and what you can expect from it. Consider the following questions:

* Do your employees need separate extensions?

* Will your employees benefit from voicemail?

* Will your people work from remote locations?

* How many employees do you have now?

* How many employees will you add in the near future?

Survey the market for the various types of phone systems, latest features and technology. Appreciating the usability of the features will help you in selecting a phone system that will benefit your business in the long run.

Analog versus digital phone systems

Analog phones transfer sound through continuous waves. These signals are easily disturbed by external interference such as noise and weather conditions, which is why sound is sometimes fuzzy in analog phones. Digital phones digitize the signal into binary units that are recombined at the other end. This makes the quality of sound much better in digital phone systems.

Digital phone systems are more easily customized than analog phones. Customization of software is easier and cheaper than hardware. Digital phones can be reprogrammed easily whereas analog phone systems can be reprogrammed only by the manufacturer or an expert in analog phone technology.

Digital phone systems are costlier than analog phone systems. The initial setup, programming and maintenance of the digital phone system can only be done by trained technicians.

Popular phone systems for small businesses

PBX: PBX (Private Branch Exchange) systems facilitate internal and external calls. These phone systems were very expensive initially, but technology has made them cheaper and accessible to smaller businesses now.

VoIP: Evolving technology and the internet makes VoIP an affordable and convenient option for small businesses. Its shortcoming is its total dependence on the Internet. If there is an internet outage, the phone system also gets disconnected.

Hybrid PBX: Hybrid PBX phone systems combine VoIP and PBX systems, making it a viable option. Businesses can cut down costs by using the VoIP systems, and fall back on the PBX system when there is a network outage.

Desirable features in a business phone system

Some standard features of a phone system that are very useful and can improve your business’ productivity radically:

* Call forwarding: forwards calls to an alternate number

* Call waiting: allows suspension of the current call to attend the incoming call

* Speakerphone: allows multiple people to interact through a speaker and microphone

* Auto attendant: queries callers and connects them to the required extension without involving an operator

* Remote voicemail access: to keep track of voicemail messages from anywhere

* Speed dialing: to connect to important contacts quickly

* Faxing capabilities: to enable fax

You might consider these advanced features too:

* Email notification on receiving voicemail

* Saving conversations on a hard drive

* Recording conversations and attach them to emails

Ask other businesses about their experience with the phone systems installed at their offices, and the features they found beneficial. Users can give a truer version of the performance and advantages of phone systems than vendors. Your business will benefit by increasing productivity and saving costs by using a phone system appropriately.

Before you hire a phone vendor, compare commercial phones quotes at a Business Network. For further details read our small business telephone systems advice.

Apple’s iPhone 4 antenna flap: Overblown, hubris or simple testing mistake?

Monday, July 19th, 2010

By Larry Dignan

With the iPhone 4 antenna issue becoming a major headache for Apple, analysts are busy handicapping the costs of a potential recall, which observers like Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster deem “highly unlikely.” But the larger questions are whether Apple is too cocky for its own good or handling a skirmish with Consumer Reports properly since the antenna flap may be overblown.

In recent days, it has been an interesting duel between Consumer Reports and Apple. Apple has admitted that there is an antenna reception problem on its iPhone 4, but told customers that the fix is to hold the phone the right way—when you touch the antenna, reception dies. Consumer Reports and other testers have documented signal degradation when touching the lower left portion of the device, bridging the iPhone’s antennas. A bumper case (right) fixes the problem. Update: Apple is holding a press conference Friday most likely to address the iPhone 4 issues.

Consumer Reports verified that there’s a hardware issue and has called on Apple to fix the iPhone 4. Duct tape seems to help.

Simply put, Consumer Reports says “we think it’s the company’s responsibility to provide the fix—at no extra cost to consumers.” Typically, Consumer Reports’ recommendations are gold and companies don’t mess with the publication’s findings. In most cases, product companies respond to the concerns in an open and public fashion. Every once in a while Consumer Reports is off, but its track record is solid.

Apple hasn’t given much of a response. After all, it’s still moving a lot of iPhone 4s. Macquarie analyst Phil Cusick says in a research note:

While we do not see any evidence of a slowdown in sales and our checks indicate almost no returns, the antenna issue could become a public relations problem and potentially impact Apple’s sterling brand image.

In the meantime, analysts have been handicapping the costs of a recall or providing a bumper case free of charge. Bottom line is that the expense is negligible. To wit:

  • Piper Jaffray’s Munster says Apple could give away bumper cases that it sells for $29. Giving away a case for free at $5 each would run about $178.5 million for every iPhone 4 over the next year. That equates to 1 percent of operating income.
  • According to CNet News, Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi pegs a recall at $1.5 billion. Like Munster, Sacconaghi says that a recall isn’t likely.
  • The cheapest option for Apple is to do nothing. Munster explains:

A second is option is for Apple to do nothing; as we’ve mentioned, we estimate that only 25% of iPhone users are periodically affected by the issue, and Apple could weather the storm by letting the current demand for the iPhone speak for itself.

Delivering bumper cases would be the easiest option. Apple could keep customers and Consumer Reports, which accounts for a lot of word-of-mouth marketing, happy. The issue here is that Apple would have to admit there’s a real design problem with the iPhone 4.

That brings us to the hubris issue. Sacconaghi says that Apple’s limited disclosure about Steve Jobs health, the attack on Adobe’s Flash and skirmish with Gizmodo over a lost iPhone add up over time. Meanwhile, Apple’s argument that customers need to hold the iPhone 4 a different way doesn’t go over well.

Munster isn’t so sure. He thinks the iPhone 4 flap is overblown. In fact, Apple probably just made a testing mistake. Munster notes:

We believe Apple field tests every iPhone model. However, recall that the lost iPhone 4 prototype was disguised as an older model iPhone with a case. Given its proclivity to secrecy, it is possible that Apple required all test units to have a case, which would render the issue undetectable. In other words, Apple may never have known the problem existed on test units in the field because they all had cases on them.

At this juncture, there are good arguments to be made for all sides. Apple can be too cocky. The iPhone 4 flap could very well be overblown. But it’s clear that Apple needs to do something. Risking a brand over what could be fixed with a case doesn’t make a lot of sense