Posted on October 27, 2016 by Dan Quick
Because we have more distributed workers on our team than many companies, we went ahead and jumped the gun on our Halloween party. This was a very good decision, by the way. So good, in fact, that we wanted to take a moment today to share with you a surefire recipe for a successful Halloween party at the office.
On one hand that could be the spooky list of ingredients that make up the fun Halloween party we had, or it could also be a reference to one of the most important parts – beer. Okay, I’m kind of kidding about that, but sure, unless your office has some strict guidelines about alcohol at company events, it wouldn’t hurt to encourage dressing up with a cold one after work. That aside, here are some other easy ways to make your next office Halloween party a hit.
- I shouldn’t have to mention this, but the absolute best part of Halloween is dressing up. Encourage everyone to wear a costume with a contest. Some people may be on the fence about dressing up, but a sweet Starbucks card or day of PTO might push them over the edge.
- If you haven’t done it lately, pumpkin carving is way more fun that you remember. For about $10 you can get some stencils that you can attach to the pumpkins or you can download hundreds of free stencils online.
- Any kind of snack food will be a hit, but try to have fun with it by doing some of the things we’ve showed off on our VirtualPBX Instagram.
- And this is more appropriate for companies like ours that have people working all over the country, but make sure the timing works for the bulk of your employees. That may sound like a scheduling headache but it’s really easy plus it means that, like we did, you might get to party on a school night!
Socialization is the Key
Which is my less than subtle way to encourage you to share the results of your party with us! But don’t worry, once you actually get your Halloween party off the ground, you’ll want to talk about it because it’ll have been so much fun. On that note, I hope you understand that many of the photos above have been redacted because what happens at the VirtualPBX Halloween party, stays at the VirtualPBX Halloween party. Have fun with your own event and remember to share it with us on Twitter and Facebook, and have fun!
Posted on October 24, 2016 by Dan Quick
The very foundation of the internet was rattled on Friday as a result of a DDoS attack on Dyn, one of the most pivotal service providers for some of the biggest websites out there. Dyn is a cloud-based internet management company that helps monitor, optimize, and control internet infrastructure for large clients. There’s probably a lot to clarify here for some of you, but before we get into that, I want to stress how the interconnectivity of the security of your own personal computer and the overall health of the internet are connected. Yes, you read that right, DDoS attacks and your own personal computing habits are more linked than you probably thought. Buckle up, here we go…
And DDoS Attacks are What, Exactly?
DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks are widespread disruptive attacks on targets that result in temporary shutdowns. Pronounced as either “D-Dos” or “D-D-Oh-S,” these are deceptively much more harmful than is commonly understood. First, they are distributed in the sense that it is essentially the overwhelming of a system with a massive amount of queries. The denial of service then results from the subsequent shutting down of a system overwhelmed by the sheer volume of traffic that it encounters. Now, with some familiarity on what a DDoS attack is, considering that Dyn was the target of the attack, that’s why sites like Amazon, Spotify, CNN, GitHub, Twitter and so many others all experienced downtime. But other than impacting your ability to see what was trending or go shopping for a while, what does that really have to do with you? The answer may be a bit disturbing.
That Sounds Terrible, I’d Like to Prevent It
We have told you before about updating the software and firmware on all of your devices but this DDoS attack is just more evidence why it’s so important. During a DDoS attack, the forces behind it will simulate millions of users trying to access a system to bring it to its capacity. As it turns out, some of the simulated access points may have been coming from personal computers that had previously accessed any of the affected sites but that also haven’t been updated to the latest security patches on their operating systems. And considering how many huge websites were affected, this could be virtually almost every single device out there. Additionally, some of the access points may have come from hardware with faulty firmware, though that is more difficult to protect against.
It’s a Delicate Web
The point is that barring the use of a bit of compromised hardware that, thankfully, is a problem few and far between, we all need to consider ourselves responsible for the overall health and safety of the internet. Sure, that’s a big responsibility, but one that isn’t too dissimilar to that of voting or driving on the right side of the road. In many ways, this is just the next logical step that we all need to take in doing our part to make sure our common areas are kept in good working order. Because, just like the neighborhood park, if everyone leaves one piece of trash behind it doesn’t take long for the whole block to look terrible.
Businesses Are More Vulnerable
Besides being responsible stewards of our own personal internet footprint, we have even more to consider with our professional internet use. Professional services that optimize your business network connections do more than boost your speed and efficiency. Higher-touch web monitoring and maintenance services like VirtualPBX Network Monitoring ensure that your network is in top shape while also keeping you up to date on all of the pertinent security patches your business needs to stay safe. And when something like this DDoS attack does occur upstream that you can’t defend against, at least knowing your system is fortified against anything will keep you and your customers prepared to weather the storm.
For more ways to protect yourself in this increasingly connected world, make sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Until we have more tips for you, though, make sure to go search for updates on your device!
Posted on October 19, 2016 by Dan Quick
With all of the new and exciting information about Kazoo 4.0 getting shared here at KazooCon 2016, it’s tough to try and catch it all, but we’re here for you! Day two was jam-packed with speakers and 2600Hz product information, of course, but we also happened to get a special opportunity to interview with Patrick Sullivan, 2600Hz’s COO. Before we get into that, however, let’s take a look at some of the other highlights from the day.
Kazoo Goes Mobile
One of the biggest announcements about the updates to Kazoo 4.0 was that, unlike other attempts to get it off the ground in the past, Kazoo is now totally ready to go fully mobile. This was a big crowd pleaser as we saw the actual SIM cards that would be used and, in a wildly successful (and rather brave, I might add) live demo, they worked like a charm. Naturally, many in the crowd had a lot of follow-up questions about this and we’re sure to see plenty of activity on Kazoo 4.0’s GitHub related to it.
How the Sausage is Made
We also got a glimpse into the unbelievably well-organized product roadmap that 2600Hz operates on. We saw this in the context of how they triage ongoing product development projects and how they weigh those efforts against the various feature requests from the developer community. Using about as many JIRA epics and project workflow charts as you’d expect to find at NASA, they systematically shift from project to project with impressive efficiency. In fact, this is how after a few items in the Kazoo forums regarding downloading voicemails arose they were able to pivot internally and within three-month roll out the all-new Voicemail Manager. Pretty impressive inner workings, to say the least.
But these developments and announcements aside, I did promise you an exclusive sit-down with Patrick Sullivan, so without further ado, here he is in his own words.
What’s the one thing about Kazoo that 2600hz is proudest of?
One highly valuable component that makes our products best of breed, is the platform’s ability to scale to demand and obtain optimal uptime. Our evolution of the Kazoo platform has far surpassed our greatest expectations. We not only hit but exceeded our operational milestones.
Early adopters of Kazoo were working with sub-optimal installation conditions, however, our engineering team relentlessly worked to ensure a functional platform was the end result. Tactics used in our early days of development, created habitual processes for developing “commodity hardware” (myriad of components) resulting in a secure and reliable platform. The Kazoo call platform has established redundancy between multiple host servers, called clusters. With this failover system in place, interruption events are significantly reduced and customers gain the peace of mind that their business will be able to carry on in the event of a natural disaster or unexpected system failures.
What was the greatest challenge that you faced when designing Kazoo?
When pioneering new products, challenges and obstacles are eminent. Since 2600Hz has always embraced bleeding-edge technologies, and strived to consistently ‘push the envelope’ there were bouts of frequent deterrents and complications. In the earlier stages of development, we’d run into road blocks and had to backtrack on multiple occasions, to ensure the right components we’re being utilized within a realistic scope. At the end of the day, we were very lucky the components we chose to implement into our foundation, came together successfully and continued to integrate and operationalize.
What gets you most excited about KazooCon 2016?
KazooCon 2016 is our biggest event to date. This year, we’re showcasing a year of ‘behind the scenes’ dedication and hard work optimizing our products to the fullest potential.
One perspective we like to make is the comparison of our Kazoo platform to a skyscraper. Where other companies focus on dry walls, and fancy looking features, we’ve focused on the foundation (laying deep pylons, pouring concrete, proper piping, etc.). Now that 4.0 is launching we have the world’s largest frame of a Skyscraper and are now focused on finalizing and perfecting functional features for a complete package. We’ve moved the needle in a way our competitors haven’t quite touched upon, as we’ve invested the time and dedication on underlying platform, creating a reliable foundation for our new and innovative features being released over the next few weeks.
Posted on October 18, 2016 by Dan Quick
First things first, I wish I could take credit for that super catchy play on words, but alas that credit belongs to the folks at 2600Hz. That’s the theme of the much-anticipated KazooCon 2016 After Party, and yes, you can bet your bottom dollar we’ll be there. However, one thing I can’t guarantee is that Las Vegas rules won’t apply – as in, what happens at KazooCon stays at KazooCon. Either way, I’ll keep you posted. In addition to coming up with fun ways for telephone engineers to unwind, the clever folks at 2600Hz have spent most of the day making sure we’re waist-deep in the latest and greatest feature of their all-new platform, Kazoo 4.0. Now, for many of you who are super excited about the ins and outs of the newest technology from 2600Hz, I regret to inform you that the technical information about the update made my brain melt a little. However, all is not lost! You can get every little bit of information on the update online by visiting Kazoo 4.0 on GitHub.
Not All for the Engineers
With so much having been accomplished over the past year at 2600Hz, needless to say, Kazoo 4.0 is just the tip of the iceberg. That being the case, once again presenting on the State of the Union was 2600Hz COO, Patrick Sullivan. Patrick was keen to stress a lot of the functionality of the new Kazoo platform, of course, but there were several other key takeaways fro his keynote –
- Even having a bigger, badder, and much more intuitive Kazoo UI is no reason to throw out the old system entirely and therefore the old Kazoo UI will remain available for archiving on GitHub.
- Because relationships are so important to the development of Kazoo, so too is an equivalently important support system for the people who use it. That’s why there’s a totally new Kazoo Support System that, based on how good this new platform looks, likely won’t be a place you spend a lot of time at.
- Reinforcement of the policy of “Open Core vs Open Source” which is a new way for people to choose to contribute chains of code to the master technology or to create proprietary products from the original. This supports the many entrepreneurs who rely on Kazoo as the basis of their own products.
Looking Forward to a Bright Future
Ultimately, whether it was from the product team behind Kazoo 4.0, leaders of regional telecom reselling companies, or even the CPO of Vonage, Omar Javaid, there was one consistent theme throughout the day. Specifically, the state of technology makes this a very exciting time to be in hosted communications, both as a supplier or a consumer. The added functionality of the hardware and software available is redefining how we will communicate with each other beyond whatever we could have imagined. Additionally, insofar as the Kazoo 4.0 platform is concerned, Patrick Sullivan eloquently mentioned that holistic improvements from software, hardware, and servers all contribute to eliminate uncertainty in service. And no matter where you fall on the telecom user/engineer spectrum, that’s something we can all get behind.
More to Come
Posted on October 13, 2016 by Dan Quick
Taylor Smith, Support Supervisor and Halloween Guide Extrordinaire
We’ve been around for a long time and have collected some of the best minds from across several industries, and we think it’s high time they got their day in the spotlight. In this series of blogs we’ll be unearthing some of the technology and talent that power our hosted communications platform.
Ghosts in the machine, gremlins on the wings of planes, and all of that wacky, head-exploding craziness from the movie Scanners- what do they all have in common? In addition to being fun movie topics for a month of Halloween, they also combine some sort of ghoulishness with technology. Coincidentally, so does our Tech Talks focus for today, Taylor Smith.
Taylor was the perfect fit for this edition of Tech Talks because, though he is a Support Supervisor at VirtualPBX by day, by night he has a much more intriguing pastime. Taylor has been supporting and performing in Dead Time Dreams, the long-running haunted house based here in San Jose, California. It was between building and operating this year’s haunted house that we caught up with Taylor to talk.
Okay, first things first, what got you into the haunted house gig?
I’ve always enjoyed Halloween and have had connections into various theatrical scenes in the area and eventually those two interests intersected. Honestly, it’s a lot like VirtualPBX in the sense that there’s just a bunch of people who enjoy doing something, do it well, and want to bring it out for others to benefit from.
Good point. That said, what is it in your professional experience that makes being a Support Supervisor a natural fit for you?
Well on one hand, acting is all about empathy. If you can’t get into the mindset of your character, delivering a convincing performance is going to be tough. In a similar way, though, empathy is the second most important thing for delivering high-quality customer support. Whenever someone calls in, I don’t instantly know how their day is going, what is riding on their business’ success, or even what kind of day they’re having. What I do know is that we wouldn’t be talking if everything was 100% perfect, and that’s not good. Because I understand that, I am really motivated to help get them back to what is really important in their lives and to making sure their phone system is taking care what it needs to.
I understand you worked a little in education, too, how does that impact a support role?
Absolutely! First of all, you want to talk about scary Halloween stories? Try taking on a class of disengaged middle schoolers! But seriously it was great, I taught science classes and tutored for years and that has been really helpful for me. Both in strategies on how to perform as a Supervisor but also in the variety of ways any topic can be taught. All of our customers have unique circumstances when they call, and not everyone learns the same way. Working in Support is a great exercise in creative ways to bring people to new understandings about their phone system. Plus I never have to send anyone to the principal’s office, either.
That’s awesome. Now a bit of rapid fire Halloween questions. What’s your favorite candy for trick or treating?
Cookies and Cream Bars.
What’s your favorite Halloween costume?
Rufio from Hook.
Ooh, respect. Okay, best Halloween movie indulgence?
Nightmare on Elm Street.
And what’s the best way to keep terrifying students engaged with science classes?
Keep it simple and blow stuff up. Of course, anything with dry ice is always a safe bet, too.
I can concur on the awesome experiments, too. There is no way I would have made it through chemistry without some green flames or frozen bananas once in a while. What isn’t an experiment, though, is what you’re going to get if you ever have to drop a line on Taylor or any member of his Customer Support Team at VirtualPBX. He and many more smiling, but sometimes scary, faces will be there to greet you at the door. That is, of course, if you dare!