Sunday, 11 October 2015

Zoho CRM integrated with SMS Text Messages

Adding SMS text messaging to your Zoho CRM system can offer some valued business functionality.

Zoho CRM can integrate with a few SMS gateway providers. Some offer both in and outbound SMS messages while others only offer outbound.

We integrated Zoho CRM with SMS-Magic. The integration is outbound only and is provided via a webhook script. SMS-Magic therefore works with both Zoho CRM Enterprise and Professional Edition.

There are several ways SMS can be integrated from a functional point of view, these include:
  1. adding a field on a Lead / Contact screen so you can enter the text message you wish to send to the person.
  2. creating an SMS module (only Enterprise Edition), to allow messages to be tracked and connected to a Lead or Contact in Zoho CRM.
  3. customise the webhook message script to automate messages for reminders such as subscriptions or maintenance renewals falling due, sending a happy birthday message, chasing where an invoice is unpaid, the correct webhook would be triggered upon a specific condition being true, e.g. expiry date is today.

You would make the message send via a trigger. We used a tick box. Once ready you would simply "tick the box" and the message will be passed to the webhook script and this is then posted to the SMS-Magic gateway. 

In addition the SMS-Magic portal allows you to monitor the message has been successfully sent or if there was an error. 

The SMS module we designed in Zoho CRM included support for template driven messages combined with a custom message. This allows standard reminders to be quickly sent. Message can be designed in a way that additional text can be added such as date, time or invoice number.

In addition, this allows SMS history to be tracked against a Contact. The SMS-Magic portal provides a reference number and confirmation the message was delivered. Our SMS module tracks that in the delivery log. The Senders ID can be sent in the webhook script to simply say SMSProvider so your customers do not reply to the message as it is simply a reminder.

SMS messages can add value to your business when used and managed correctly. SMS-Magic requires both a monthly subscription and a credit purchase for messages. Monthly subscriptions start at US$19. 

Contact Cloud Solutions if you require assistance in enabling SMS with your Zoho CRM system. 

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Cloud Accounting Systems Xero, Quickbooks, Kashflow

The productivity gains Cloud Solutions has seen by adopting Xero Cloud Accounting even surprised us! The amount of time per week spent performing accounting duties has been effectively reduced by as much as 70%. If you do not believe in the Cloud then you are missing the biggest opportunity of your working life time.

Businesses in Asia could do much better with productivity but the inability to adopt change keeps businesses and their staff well behind those countries that embrace technology and change. 

To enjoy these productivity gains there are a few key changes every business needs to make. These are:
  1. Stop using Excel. It is a dead end. 
  2. Capture quotation or order data as early as possible in your business process and enter this into a CRM database system (we use and recommend Zoho CRM).
  3. Use the CRM to automate quotation and email delivery via templates.
  4. Ensure data is only ever entered ONCE into any system in your company. Ensure data flows from sales through to finance and back again. This ensures data is accurate with no double keying required.
  5. Adopt a modern Cloud Accounting system such as Xero, Quickbooks Online or KashFlow. In my opinion the current offering of MYOB is outdated and should not be considered.
  6. Integrate the CRM solution with your Cloud Accounting system to ensure data flows between these applications.

So Why Now?

Accounting has not changed much over the past 20 years however what has changed is the Internet. We now do banking online and can use PayPal to sell goods and services to customers all over the world and have the money in our bank account in seconds. This is the big change. However many businesses have not embraced this 24x7 connection or may be do not appreciate what is possible. The bookkeepers continue to manually enter data into their outdated systems and have not really embraced how technology can help their productivity.

With Cloud Accounting systems like Xero, your business bank accounts along with PayPal can be integrated in the Cloud. This allows all bank account transactions to be automatically uploaded to your accounting system pending your reconciliation and coding once a day. This ensures data is accurate and efficiently captured.
Improved productivity means increasing your capacity to grow with the current resources or continue at the same level with less resources, that is, less staff and smaller offices, e.g. increasing profits.

A Simple Example

Let me explain a simple sales process and how this will affect the accounting system and the resources required to manage this entry in our company.
  1. Prepare a quotation for say 10 hours of Consultancy Services for Zoho CRM. Prepare this in the CRM, it takes say 60 seconds. It is emailed to the customer via a template driven email. Another 15 seconds.
  2. Once the quotation is signed and returned to us, we would create a Sales Order (Sales Contract) and then send an Invoice. This takes no more than 30 seconds as the quotation is converted to a Sales Order and Invoice. No data is re-entered. The Invoice being created in the CRM system.
  3. Later that evening the Cloud based CRM communicates with the Cloud based Accounting system (e.g. Xero), and sends all Invoice data across automatically. Any Purchased Order initiated or created in the CRM will also be sent to the Cloud Accounting system.
  4. The customer pays our invoice on-line via PayPal.
  5. The same day the payment is received the Cloud Accounting system (Xero) will communicate with PayPal and import the receipt of the funds as a new transaction. 
  6. Up to this point the bookkeeper has not had to do a single thing. Has not keyed in a single entry. Even new customers are created automatically.
  7. Each morning the bookkeeper need only match the invoice with the receipt so they can be reconciled, the one-click OK confirms the suggested match is correct. 
  8. Once the invoice is settled in the Cloud Accounting system the Invoice status is changed to PAID and this is reflected back in the CRM system on the next data sync.

Count how many mouse clicks it takes your business to confirm a Sales Order, Create an Invoice, Record the Receipt of funds and then Reconcile the Bank account.

Every small and mid-size business Cloud Solutions helps sees productivity gains in a short period of time. However the business owner must be 100% behind the change and is key to drive this process throughout their organisation.

Asia Limitations

While Xero offers a long list of Bank import feeds, not all Asia banks are supported. If your bank is very local and has very poor on-line facilities then this is another cost to your business that you have to accept or consider working with a bank that is modern and can offer your business the productivity gains discussed above. When Asia businesses are so happy to continue to use Excel and use outdated processes and systems, local banks have limited need to change their systems either if the market is not demanding it.

In Hong Kong Xero and Quickbooks Online provides integration or bank feeds with HSBC Corporate and Personal Accounts. This covers 70% of the local market. Other banks would require a csv file upload. PayPal and a number of other payment gateways are supported. Credit card integration is also supported.

Your future is in your hands. For some of us, the future has already arrived.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Zoho CRM Label and Badge Printing

We are often asked how to design and produce mailing labels or name badges from Zoho CRM. The below video covers the steps.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

ZOHO CRM Connectors to Accounting Systems

Zoho CRM is becoming very popular in the market and we are getting more demand to connect Zoho CRM with a company's existing accounting system. The advantage of this is to reduce the errors and costs associated with double data entry and to also ensure customer data is in sync between both systems. Of course when a lot of customer related data is isolated in the accounting system the sales executive or account manager often has little idea on the current financial status of their customer. Providing up to date financial information in the CRM is very important to a sales person.

While Zoho offers Zoho Books, this may not be appropriate for every customer as they may have been using accounting systems such as Quickbooks, MYOB, KashFlow, or Xero and have no desire or need to change. The implementation of CRM for the sales team can be derailed if the project focus shifts to accounting. So it is often best to get the Sales team working well and then decide to either integrate the accounting system via connectors or consider the upgrade alternatives if your accounting system is old.

In this context, "old accounting systems" refer more to Cloud Accounting Systems or not. This means if you have been using Quickbooks or MYOB Windows for many years then many of the connectors between Zoho CRM and the accounting system may not be available. The modern connectors are offered as Cloud to Cloud. This means Quickbooks would be Quickbooks Online and not the traditional application installed on your accountant's Windows PC. More recently released accounting systems such as KashFlow or Xero only have a Cloud based offering. 

If your company is starting from scratch then Zoho Books should be considered first as it makes sense to review this if you are a Zoho CRM user. If your accountant prefers to use KashFlow or Quickbooks then you would need a connector that works between the two systems. 

The standard connectors in the marketplace offer basic mapping of data from one system to the other allowing data to flow both ways. For example, if an invoice becomes PAID, the status change will be pushed from the accounting system back to Zoho CRM. If not all fields required to be pushed from Zoho CRM to the accounting system are supported by the connector the vendor can be requested to enhance their connector to your exact requirements. The demand is now high enough that a company can focus 100% on just providing connectors to the market. The price being charged is up to US$20 per month and this is much cheaper than playing around with API's yourself unless you are a real expert in both systems. The vendor will also maintain the connector as systems upgrade.

Cloud Solutions has used Cloud based Connectors to sync data between Zoho CRM and the user's accounting system. Our lead consultant's background is in accounting so this is a strength of our consulting business. 

Contact us to for more information.

Some interesting data released this month - Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is in high demand. Gartner predicts that CRM software revenue will reach almost US$24 billion, with cloud revenue accounting for 49%. So if you have not considered CRM before, now is your time. With a growing availability of Cloud based connectors your complete business can be integrated. Email, CRM and Accounting.

Below is a video showing how Zoho CRM and Xero can be integrated

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Zoho CRM Birthday and Anniversary Auto Emails

I have read a number of frustrated posts about trying to do a simple thing like send an email out to a customer on their birthday or anniversary etc. I have spent quite some time on this and am pleased to say it works perfectly. First issue is you must use Enterprise Edition to allow the triggers to send out the email on the birthday to your contact.

Zoho CRM Birthdays

The approach I took was as follows:
  • use the Date of Birth field on the contact record of CRM
  • created a new field called "Next Birthday"
  • as an option, I also calculated the Age of the contact so created a field called "Current Age".(this may be important if you wish to market different products based on age to the contact)

To make this all work you DO NOT use Formula fields. You must use Custom Functions. These can be found under Set Up | Workflow | Custom Functions.You will need 3 customer functions. The reason being, once you create the record the first time the Next Birthday and Age can be calculated as part of the Create Record triggers however what happens next year? How is the system going to move the Next Birthday date forward one year once the current year's birthday passes? How will the age automatically click over one more year? So while you can make some of this happen by editing a record you cannot do this for thousands of records in the database. So using the Date condition trigger in the workflow, you can run the update checker each night to refresh the age and next birthday of a contact either one day after their Next Birthday or on the actual day of their birthday.

Not sure you are following me so far?

Given we have the Next Birthday Date calculating correctly and updating once a year, then an email can be automatically send out when the NEXT BIRTHDAY = TODAY. 

So as discussed, I needed to write 3 Custom Functions and link these to 4 different Workflows prior to the final workflow which was the Email Alert / Template. Which was the easy part.

The following are the Custom Functions Built;

  • Create calculate "Next Birthday from DOB" -  used when record first created. Simply work out the number of years since the DOB and add that back to the DOB and you get this year's birthday.
  • Update Next Birthday Year to Year - for this I just checked if the Next Birthday was yesterday, and if it was I added one year to the date. So this would run each night. 
  • Update the Age. Same concept, just check the Next Birthday. It is a little tricky. You need to get the comparison to the date right as someone can be in their 30th year but not yet 30 because the birthday is still in the future. So age is still 29 until the Next Birthday has passed. Then you update the age. This would be triggered on the actual birthday where as Next Birthday update can happen the day after (e.g. Next Birthday + 1).

Once these Custom Functions are created I used 4 workflows to trigger their execution.

  • First Workflow Trigger was an event based trigger on new Contact Creation, if the DOB was entered then execute Custom Function 1. Calculate Next Birthday.
  • Copy this workflow and use it to also calculate the Age on first time record creation. Just replace the Custom Function 1 with Custom Function 2. A single workflow could be used but I like having them separate so I can better manage each process.
  • Next workflow is Time based and it would be triggered on NEXT BIRTHDAY = Today - 1. This means the birthday was yesterday. On this basis run the Next Birthday updater (Custom Function 3). This will push the year forward one year. So if today was 3-Mar-2015, all Next Birthday fields that were 2-Mar-2015 would become 2-Mar-2016. You would set a time this rule would execute so say 3am. So in the morning all records are now updated.
  • Last workflow is also Time based, when NEXT BIRTHDAY = today, then run the Age Update function. As your age increases on your birthday not the day after. Use Customer Function 2 again and just ask it to recalculate things so you should get a bigger number. Once again, kick this off at 2:00am and then in the morning the ages will be right for all contacts.

As discussed above, the Email Template for the HAPPY BIRTHDAY message, would be connected to a Workflow Alert with the Contact being nominated as the receiving party of the email. (you can select a number of email addresses to send this to if required). You create the Final Workflow, to trigger when Next Birthday = today, and you associate the Alert created to this trigger. Lock it, then you are good to go. Sit back and the automation will start.

This does all work. There is a little involved I am sure you realise. Our consultancy is offered to those who would like assistance in this area.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

A Great Database Development Tool - Zoho Creator

Eventually Excel Does Not Fit the Bill

Everyone uses Excel to collect and store data. Sharing however becomes a little more challenging with team members. 

Once you realise the limitations of Excel it is time to consider Zoho's Creator. Creator is a tool to convert Excel files into business applications. Zoho Creator provides you with a drag-and-drop builder to customise business applications or databases. And the best part is, it is mobile ready!

Zoho Creator is designed for non-programmers in mind. While there is support for some scripting to achieve more complex processes you do not require this to get started. 

If your business has developed your work processes around a number of Excel files, you may not realise but you already have the foundation to start using business applications such as Zoho CRM and Zoho Creator. And if you use Zoho CRM already then Zoho Creator is already integrated. If you need to connect an Account to the record in Creator, simply drag-and-drop the Zoho CRM connector onto the screen layout and define the module, e.g. Account. Contact, Sales Order etc.

Getting started is as easy as importing that Excel file into Zoho Creator to start building your business application. Just define which columns are dates, lookups, check-boxes, etc. Then import the data and you are ready to start to use.

Being a web based application you can now share your data with users in and outside the office. Using a mobile phone app is now also possible. So within 20-30 minutes you can turn that single user Excel file into a Cloud based business database that is now accessible via your mobile phone after installing the free Zoho Creator App.

Images can also be uploaded and stored in the database, so building product related databases is easy.

Sharing data with China based factories, suppliers, customers or business partners is now easy. While Excel was a great place to start, eventually you will realise the limitations and it is time to upgrade to Zoho Creator and a great business application builder.

Cloud Solutions works with Zoho CRM and Zoho Creator everyday. Providing advice and consultancy services.  Contact us for assistance.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

How Easy Backing Up Data Has Become with Cloud Computing

Backup Need Not Be A Chore

Over the years many of our clients have only started to take backup seriously once they experience data loss or a disaster. There is no need to really discuss the importance of performing a backup as everyone knows this. In the past if a laptop was not connected to the office network it could not be backed up. And as expected, very important data may well be located on a non-connected device. So when that device is lost, stolen or simply damaged this can cost your business big time!  Moreover, if you were out of the office and needed to recover a file this would also be impossible because you were not connected to the office network or not the IT administrator. Mobile devices with business data and photos on are also now an important device to backup and manage. 

Cloud Based Backup Changes Everything

Cloud Backup solutions have changed the ease at which backups can be performed. Simply open an account with a provider, download an agent for your PC (Windows or MAC), and within minutes you can be backing up your data.

Cloud Solutions offers Backup2Cloud.  Simply register your interest and an account will be opened for you and an email sent with your login details and password.

Follow the instructions in the email and login to the portal. First step is to install the software agent of choice. You can select from Windows, MAC, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Android, and Windows Servers.

The installation is only a few clicks and within 60 seconds your backup agent will be installed. The next step is to review the default settings.

Keeping the default settings should work for you however you can adjust the performance and bandwidth sharing, to continue or stop backing up when you are working and how many versions of files to keep. Source folders can be selected however by default the following are selected; My Documents, Desktop, Internet Explorer Favorites, Outlook, Windows Mail. Google and Firefox Favorites are also included if the agent identifies these are installed.
In addition Proxy server settings defined, block out periods (when not to perform a backup), exclude certain file formats, and to manage the open files plugin. Normal files such as PDF, Doc, XLS, HTML, JPEG, TIFF etc will be backed up. Outlook PST, Quickbooks, MYOB and other files are also supported. 

Block Out period could be set for Monday to Friday say 9:00 am to 6:00 pm so files are not backing up when you are working. Alternatively you can enjoy Continual Data Protection by simply leaving the backup running all the time. 

The agent will perform a scan of your PC to identify all the files that need to be backed up. This process will take a few minutes and then the backup itself will start encrypting the files with 448 bit Blowfish Encryption and transferring them to the Cloud for safe keeping.  

You would only backup your data rather than all your programs or applications. You may have 10-15 GB's of data including your Outlook PST file. This would take more than 24 hours to send to the Cloud. However once the first backup has been performed only changed and new files need be sent to the Cloud. 

Reports are available on how the backup has been running and warning emails will be received if no backup has been perform within the past couple of  days. 

The User Portal allows the user to check their own backup data, check if any errors have occurred and download any files stored in the Cloud. While the locally installed agent allows a data restore to be performed, a quick download can be performed from the User Portal. In addition files or folders can be shared with others if required. The ability to recover data by yourself, when and where required is a big advantage over the traditional backup methods. 

"All backed up data is automatically stored outside your office which is the best way" 

The User Portal is well designed and easy-to-use. It is possible to remove files from the Cloud only via the User Portal or share files with others.

The price of the Backup2Cloud solution does depend on the storage space in the Cloud. If you are storing files in the Cloud that are no longer required these can be removed. The backup agent provides a Clean Up Wizard which is designed to search for files that are no longer on your computer, but are still being stored on the Cloud.  You can then choose to either remove these files from storage, or keep them intact for future restores.  This helps you “clean up” your online storage space, and effectively lower your monthly cost.

"No point backing up if you cannot restore!"

Restoring data must be performed with ease if the solution is going to get the thumbs up. Backup2Cloud offers file downloads via the User Portal or via the agent a Restore Utility is available to allow the files or folders to be selected for restore. This is a great way to migrate data to a new laptop by simply restoring all the data from the old laptop. While the applications still need to be installed correctly, moving the data across becomes an easy option.  Chinese named documents are supported; backed up and restore without any trouble. 

"All backed up data is stored with military grade encryption at a data center in Asia"

Agent-less Backup. If you are running a Windows server in your office then the Windows Server agent should be downloaded and installed. This will allow you to create backup sets for Files, Exchange, SQL, SharePoint and VMware ESX. A primary Windows server can be used to backup Windows PCs, Terminal Server Desktops, and other servers without installing the agent locally on the machine. A very useful approach for an IT manager. A laptop and mobile phone may be the only devices where an agent need be installed otherwise everything can be controlled from a single Windows server.

For an easy to use and understand backup solution for small and mid-sized businesses go no further than Backup2Cloud powered by Data Deposit Box. Pricing starts from USD$19.99 for 60GB of data. Visit for pricing details. Pricing is not based on users. It is based on storage space required. This means several computers or devices can download the backup agent and start backing up. This can include your office Windows PC, laptop, MAC at home, and your iPhone.

Is it time you finally start to protect your business data?

Cloud Backup server online Singapore hong Kong 

Monday, 6 April 2015

Add Zoho Survey to your Zoho CRM

A few of our customers have now started to integrate Zoho Survey's into their work processes and customer interactions. Zoho Survey can be used for the obvious customer satisfaction feedback but what makes Zoho Survey and Zoho CRM work is the ability to transfer data from the CRM to the Survey and vice versa.

A project we recently completed included the requirement to send a survey to each customer after the completion of each project. Key data stored within the Zoho CRM Sales Order was transferred into the Survey and email out to the client. The subsequent results were linked back to the Sales Order and all data collected could be analyzed and shared.
"...what makes Zoho Survey and Zoho CRM work is the ability to transfer data from the CRM to the Survey"
Zoho Survey offers a number of templates to help start you off including feedback from customers, attendees, invitees, students and all the people who matter to your business.

Question logic is also supported which allows the author to inquiry further if poor feedback is registered for one specific question or several questions can be skipped based on a certain answered, e.g. Married Yes / No.

Zoho Survey provides for branding supporting including template colours, logos and even URL. The URL branding requires CNAME modification of your DNS. An end page or closing page with may be a "Thank You" can also be defined and would be redirected to once the Submit button was selected.

Another project we are working on will use Zoho Survey to send each customer a summary of the data stored in the CRM and ask the customer to confirm it is still accurate. The survey will allow the customer to update any of the data direct to  Zoho CRM by simply updating the Zoho Survey form. For example, the contact could have a new mobile phone number or if they may wish to subscribe to the corporate newsletter.

New leads can be sent a Survey to request additional information prior to a proposal or quotation being prepared.

Zoho Survey can be send out from Zoho Campaigns or Zoho CRM and integrated back to the record information stored in Zoho CRM. This is a very useful feature.

For Consultancy Services on Zoho Survey or Zoho CRM please contact us at Cloud Solutions.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Yealink Release VC400 Video Conference

Yealink now offers an affordable video conferencing solution with a claim of unmatched quality and “easy technology” to install and use. The innovative VC series offers Full HD video conferencing features designed specifically for SMEs to find out a perfect balance among high quality, ease-of-use and low cost. VC400 Yealink Video Conference 
Yealink offer the VC400 for head office and VC120 for branch locations. We expect a personal edition to be available soon whereby people can join a conference from their laptop or or mobile device. The Yealink solution is compatible with solutions from other vendors in the market because it follows industry standards. 
From a techie point of view, the Yealink VC400 offers 1080P full-HD and was designed specifically for head office use. Supporting H.323 and SIP dual protocol to ensure good compatibility with mainstream video conferencing systems. The VC400 is equipped with an 18X optical PTZ camera so that users can enjoy 4-site 1080P full-HD video conferencing, as well as 1080P contents sharing. VC400 also supports dual displays, USB recording and playback. With an extraordinary video and audio experience, VC400 is a great choice for your business video conferencing.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Softphone support with CloudPBX in Asia

If you have a customer services department or sales people that work on the road then a softphone install on your Windows or MAC computer may be the best way to stay connected with your office or colleagues. Softphones support both incoming and outgoing calls. All calls made between the user and the office would be free no matter where the laptop user was located. External calls to customers or suppliers would be charged to the company as if the person was sitting in the office.  

Softphones are available from a number of vendors. However we only support one brand of softphone with the CloudPBX. This is the Bria 4.0 client from Counterpath. This is not free software. A licenses can be purchased from the Counterpath web site at a cost of US$49.99. The softphone supports G729 compression, voicemail and call transfer.

We have user guides available to help configure the Bria client to enable it to connect to the CloudPBX service.

An alternative option is to consider Counterpath’s subscription model rather than purchasing a one-time license. Of course a one-time purchase does not cover upgrades whereas the subscription model would ensure you were always using the latest version of the software. Moreover, the subscription model allows you to purchase and centrally manage the licenses for other mobile devices such as iPhone, iPad, Tablet and Android phones. There is a minimum purchase of 5 licenses. These can be of any combination. Purchasing the Windows Bria client via this method costs US$34 per year.

In addition, we can pre-configure all softphones on the server side if the license is purchased via the subscription model. If it is a one time license then the user must configure themselves by following our user guide.

Another advantage of the subscription model for the corporate user is the license is transferable. This means if an employee leaves, the account can be disabled and the license applied to another user. Whereas, if you purchase the one-time license you may not be able to retain the softphone if it is on that persons computer.


Jabra 150 Headset
When using a softphone the best results will be experienced when using a quality headset. Laptops do have speakers and a microphone so technically, speaking directly into your laptop will work but if you are in a busy location this will create additional noise. So a headset is best. You could use the headset that comes with your mobile phone or better still, consider USB headsets from Jabra or Plantronics. If you are a customer services department then a professional headset is strongly recommended.

Your IP Address

The CloudPBX requires your softphone’s IP address to be whitelisted in the firewall of the server. It is normal for a laptop user to be changing IP addresses every time they connect to a different network. CloudPBX supports both an OpenVPN client or a DynDNS Host address. Either of these methods would be required to allow a laptop user to send an approved IP address to the CloudPBX. This of course is only applicable when the laptop is located at a hotel or coffee shop etc. It is not in the office. If it was a customer service team then they will all be located in the office so this is not application as the office IP address will be whitelisted in the server’s firewall.

If you would like to learn more about using softphones with our CloudPBX service please contact us. Call us in Singapore, +65 31582176 or Hong Kong +852 39733848. 

DISA Is A Great CloudPBX Feature

CloudPBX supports DISA. This provides for an external caller (normally staff) to access internal CloudPBX features when outside the office. The user would call a specific local phone number which would access the DISA service, once a security password was entered the CloudPBX answers the call with a dial tone allowing the user to place an internal call or long distance call. This may be required to ensure the company's Caller ID (phone number) is sent to the called party and the mobile phone number of the staff is not sent.

The basic idea behind this DISA /Call-Through solution is enabling authorised corporate users outside the office to make calls using the organisation's special low tariffs, and to capitalise on the direct connection to the different operators. As a result, the company saves money on the original direct call. Security features include only accepting calls from approved phone numbers, e.g. mobile number of the staff; along with a 4-6 digit password. Both would be required for access to be granted by the system.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Skype Connect and CloudPBX

Skype offers business owners a “Skype business account” called “Skype Manager”. This is different to a personal Skype account you may already use today.

Skype Manager allows businesses to define their users and control each account under one interface. If an employee leaves it is now easier to terminate that account. Setting up a Skype Manager account is a prerequisite to this solution.

Under the Skype Manager a company can subscribe to a service called Skype Connect. This provides for a SIP trunk to be enabled allowing the CloudPBX to be connected to the Skype community thus enabled incoming (only) calls to be received from a Skype user without the Skype user having to use Skype Out, e.g. the call is free and technically between Skype users even though the call is being received by a PBX and not the Skype software you may currently use.
Skype Connect

A business would purchase as many SIP Connect trunks as required, each trunk represents a single concurrent call. Most businesses would find one enough however if you are a heavy Skype user, 3-4 Skype Connect accounts can be subscribed to. The price is around USD$7-8 per month, per trunk. No charge for any calls being placed between Skype and the PBX.

This can be a very powerful feature to enable as all incoming voice communications to your business can now be managed by a single system, e.g. the CloudPBX. Incoming Skype calls can be placed on hold, transferred, recorded and sent to voice mail in the exact same manner as someone contacting your business from a mobile or landline telephone.

Incoming Skype calls can display on your phone the name of the calling Skype user.

Multiple business Skype names can be defined within Skype Manager such as Sales, Support, or Customer Service. The Skype name may look like sales.your-business-Skype-name. This will ensure incoming calls can be directed or mapped to the right people within your organisation. You can of course also create Skype names for individual staff such as stephen.your-business-Skype-name. This would allow Skype users to connect to Stephen directly. Or a conference room, conference.your-business-Skype-name, this would be mapped to a CloudPBX conference room.

Skype “Click-to-Dial” links can be placed on your website or at the footer of your email to allow customers to directly speak with the sender via Skype, however the business user would answer the incoming call on their normal desk phone, not a Skype client.

Skype Connect is online and available 24x7. There is no need for the business user to run Skype on their desktop or have it enabled on any device as the CloudPBX is the Skype client and is also online 24x7. Your business Skype name (e.g. sales.your-business-Skype-name) would therefore always show “available or online” to the calling Skype user. If the call cannot be answered it will simply be sent to voice mail.

For your own staff who travel, they can also use their personal Skype account to connect, for free, back to the office. This allows calls to be placed from a mobile smart phone or a laptop. This would be an alternative to using a SIP enabled client on the user’s mobile device. The only downside of using the Skype client is you cannot receive incoming calls
Skype Manager
Skype Connect with Cloud PBX

Within Skype Manager, there is a need to associate a “number” with each Skype Name created. When Skype Connect communicates with the CloudPBX it passes the number (not the name) to the PBX so the call routing can be understood by the CloudPBX as a PBX can only understand numbers. The above diagram illustrates how this mapping is defined in the Skype Manager and associates a number with a Skype name. When a Skype user clicks on a “Click to Call” web link or simply initiates a Skype call from their Window’s client, the call map will send the number to the PBX and based on the inbound call routing defined, a staff’s phone will ring.