FreePBX 14, Distro 14 & More!

It’s sure been an amazing year here at Sangoma. We are finally proud to announce the official stable release of FreePBX 14 and also the stable release of our Enterprise Linux 7 based distro which contains many updated system libraries, not least of which is PHP 5.6.31, NodeJS 8.1.4, and Python 3.6.

Over the last 16 months, we’ve been hard at work developing FreePBX 14, and we’d like to highlight four (of the many) major improvements: Auto-Update Security Releases, Distro updates in Module Admin, Calendar Module, and an upgraded User Control Panel (UCP). To learn more about all of the new features of FreePBX 14 make sure to checkout our last blog on FreePBX: https://www.freepbx.org/freepbx-14-release-candidate/

Since then, we’ve also introduced a few major features in parallel into FreePBX 13 (that are also in FreePBX 14), the most significant one being multiple and improved directory support in User Manager. Now you can setup multiple Active Directories, LDAP directories and internal directories to control the Users that are on your PBX. FreePBX will even auto create extensions for you from your remote directories. Of course, as FreePBX is an Open Source project, this is all completely free!

You may be asking yourself “What does a new version of PHP or NodeJS get me?”. Previously in FreePBX 13 and lower we were working with PHP 5.3 and NodeJS 0.12. By requiring newer versions of these as part of FreePBX 14, apart from significant improvements in the languages themselves, the performance improvements are the most noticeable difference. This means you’ll have a snappier FreePBX on your hand, with much quicker reload times. Behind the scenes, on the back end, we are also able to utilize new libraries that also have performance improvements in themselves.


https://lornajane.net/posts/2014/php-5-6-benchmarks/

We’ve started work on FreePBX 15 which we hope to have an early release of in October 2017. Three of the most important features we are planning for FreePBX 15 is a complete revamp of our RestAPI, Backup and Restore upgrades, so you will – in the future – be able to restore from and to a different versions (Only 15 and higher, so will be able to restore – for example – 15 into 16 or 17 into 15), and a new File Store module, which will allow you to store backups (or faxes and other files) on S3, FTP, email, ssh and more!

Over the next year we will also be working on bringing FreePBX onto PHP 7.x with commercial modules.

With the release of this blog we have also released a version of the FreePBX module “Version Upgrader”, which is for standard manual, or custom installed systems, and will help the owner upgrade all the associated packages (PHP, and Node, as mentioned above). For FreePBX Distro installs we are fine tuning and checking a simple one-line command that you can run on your server to upgrade the Operating System to 7, and FreePBX to 14 at the same time, all automatically. Of course, when running this RPM your system will reboot and there will be downtime, and there are some minor prerequisites (such as a 64 bit machine, and at least 10gb of free space). As of today the distro upgrader is being released as a public beta, and more information is available on our wiki page: https://wiki.freepbx.org/display/PPS/Upgrading+from+Distro+6

Please remember, as adoption of FreePBX grows there may be things we missed. If you find any issues please open a bug at https://issues.freepbx.org and we’ll look into it as soon as we can. You can also ask for help on our Community Forums, where you may be able to get assistance from experts in the community, too.

Thank you for using FreePBX and we look forward to what develops through 2017!

The Value of a Professional Voice

I regularly contribute blog articles and speak at telephony conferences about IVR Best Practices. One of the key points that I always wish to impart is: getting your auto-attendant and IVR prompts voiced by a professional is not only be a great idea – it’s a move which will inform your callers of your professionalism and overall image awareness.

One popular line of thinking is: “Let’s just get the person answering phones at the front desk to voice the message. They talk all day, how hard can it be?”

And it’s true: your front-office staffers are probably very capable, and even willing to voice your custom prompts – and they may even do an acceptable job. But there can be issues with using staff instead of hiring a voice-over pro.

The Employee Working the Front Desk Can Change. The staffer that you enlist to voice your auto attendant might move to a different position or leave the company. Now making changes to your IVR becomes an issue. Do you just use another employee? I recently called the IVR of the largest cable provider in Canada, and I counted 15 different voices on their IVR. It sounds inconsistent, disorganized, and amateurish. You want to demonstrate continuity and professionalism when clients call your business. A professional IVR, using the same voice for all the prompts in your system, will give callers a sense of consistency, familiarity, and stability.

Employees Will Be Recording Directly Into the Phone. When you hire a voice-over professional, you’re getting clean, clear digital files, recorded in a professional environment. The files can be converted into any format/codec your system requires. You want to project an image of a professional company. Editing is included, removal of breathing, unnecessary pauses and background noises make the professional difference.

Professionals are Available and You Are Not Taking Them Off a Project. Chances are – even though a staffer might be on your actual premises – they may not be available for corrections/additions/updates the way a dedicated professional would be. Your staffer was hired for a purpose – and voicing telephone prompts isn’t what they should be busy with. A task like voicing and editing prompts for the phone menu will likely get stuffed down on the list of importance, and not be given the proper attention – whereas it’s my core competency.

There’s a Reason Why My Husband and I Go Out for Sushi Instead of Making it at Home. I’m a pretty fair cook, and can actually make my own sushi at home – but not easily and not quickly. It’s a skillset – and if making sushi was my job, I’d be pretty darn good at it. Letting a professional prepare your sushi means you don’t have to worry about all the ingredients and steps; you simply get to enjoy a great experience. So it is with IVR.

Computer-Generated Voices Sound like Computers. Another perceived “shortcut” which many view as a work-around to hiring a pro to voice your system is the implement a Text to Speech utility – where phrases are typed in and the utility spews forth sentences. While a good stop-gap measure/temporary replacement for “holes” in your IVR, even the well-executed ones will always have an “automated” sound to them. There are many people that are turned off by a machine recording, saying it feels impersonal. (When I voiced the Allison TTS Engine – Cepstral’s #1-selling TTS voice – clients kidded me that I’ve replaced myself with a “machine”. Even the one built on my voice is a poor substitute for custom IVR recorded from scratch.)

The takeaway: while everyone can speak, hiring a professional to voice your auto attendant, IVR, greetings, and on-hold systems makes a much better impression on customers, setting your company above your competition and demonstrating your professionalism. Professional IVR is an easy and affordable investment in your corporate image and should be a serious consideration for anyone building a phone system your customers will use daily.

Allison Smith is a professional telephone voice, heard on platforms for Cisco, Vonage, ShoreTel, Bell Canada, Cincinnati Bell, Mitel, and the Asterisk Open Source PBX. Web: www.theivrvoice.com. Twitter: @voicegal. You can purchase her custom professional voice prompts easily and directly from Sangoma in the FreePBX Store.

Webinar: Improve Team Collaboration with Sangoma’s Zulu UC Softphone

Sangoma webinar

Thursday, June 1, 2017 @ 7AM & 2PM EDT

Register

As more of today’s workforce is working outside of the office, organizations need to update their communication tools to ensure team collaboration is up to speed.

Sangoma’s Zulu UC is the ultimate Desktop integration tool that improves work place productivity and communication. Designed for FreePBX and PBXact Phone Systems, Zulu offers many features and benefits to your employees.

Zulu UC Features

  • Zulu Softphone client, featuring:
    • Chat – Includes individual / group messaging with emojis
    • SMS & FAX with SIPStation service
    • Contact Calling – So you never have to remember anyone’s phone number
  • Click-to-Call from Web Browsers, Outlook Email Client and CRM Helpdesks
  • Call-Pop for helpdesk integration

Coming Soon: Zulu Mobile Client for iOS / Android and Screen Sharing

Attendees of this live webinar will receive 50% off a 1-year license of Zulu UC. See below for terms and details.

This is the best deal we’ve released this year, so don’t miss out!

*Offer includes 50% off a 1-year license of Zulu UC inside the Sangoma Portal Store. Promotion valid from Thursday June 1, 2017 at 12:00AM EDT until Friday June 16, 2017 at 11:59PM EDT. Not valid on prior purchases. All transactions must be completed, checked out and paid in full by the cut off time. No extensions or exceptions will be made. Offer applies to 1-year license only. All prices are listed in USD, and priced as listed at time of checkout. Sangoma is not responsible for typo’s or omissions in prices listed above, module purchases are subject to the commercial module EULA. Purchases must be made directly in the Portal store, as promotion codes are not integrated into Module Admin purchasing within the FreePBX GUI. Please ensure you are choosing the correct PBX deployment you wish to purchase add-ons for, we cannot move licenses once purchased.

Attention Integrators and Resellers

Attention Integrators and Resellers:   

  • Are you offering FreePBX as a Hosted application/Cloud Offering to your customers?
  • Do you currently offer your customers SIP trunking services on a monthly subscription model?
  • Are you interested in exploring a possible exit strategy for your business?
  • Would you like to bring your customers into a larger entity with more resources?
  • Are you tired of being the person/company who does everything and competing with the big boys, yet never being able to take time off for fear of what will happen to your customers when you’re away?

If you answered yes to some or all of the questions above Sangoma would like to hear from you.  We are looking for possible acquisitions of SIP Trunking and Hosted PBX providers and have completed a few of them the past couple of years.  We are looking for companies all over the globe, with recurring revenue that use Sangoma/FreePBX in your platform.

Please contact us by sending us an email to buyme@sangoma.com and someone from our team will reach back out to you and to explore the possible fit for us together.  This is a confidential email address, and any correspondence as well as follow up discussions, will be handled privately and with discretion.

Tony Lewis
Sangoma Technologies
COO

Commercial Modules, Support Provided, Upcoming Changes

Commercial Modules, Support Provided, Upcoming Changes

FreePBX has grown from dozens of modules a few years ago to hundreds of modules today (it’s over 100) the bulk of them part of the open source foundation that makes up this great project. We’re constantly adding new functionality, whether new features to existing modules, brand new open source modules, or the occasional introduction of a new commercial module within the mix.

What determines Commercial vs. Open Source for New Module Development?

Although most of our development resource are spent maintaining and building upon the core open source project, we always evaluate and think hard if a new module should be part of the open source foundation or introduced as commercial. The open source usually wins :). However, there are a number of specific or vertical market needs that usually come with much higher maintenance costs or the need for a higher then normal commercially acceptable response time in addressing issues. Examples of these are the High Availability Module and End Point Manager. In order to keep the bulk of our development efforts focused on the open source foundation, we evaluate these ‘special needs’ areas when deciding if a module should be commercial to ensure there is a proper revenue stream to create, maintain, and support these specialty components. The alternative would otherwise result in all of our time servicing these, used by a much smaller population of users, at the expense of the mainstream code base used by everyone.

Commercial Module Licensing and Continued Support

Most commercial modules are sold with a 25-year license and one year of updates for bug fixes and new features. This model is very standard in the software industry. It means your module will continue to run beyond the first year, but if you want to reap the benefits of the ongoing development and resulting enhancements you will have to pay a small fee after that to keep getting those updates. Otherwise, you can continue using what you have, it WILL continue to function fine.

Up until now, we have never provided a mechanism to buy that continued support after the first year, despite many customers asking us how they can purchase it. Instead, we’ve simply continued to give you those updates for free. With commercial modules entering into their fifth year, the population has exploded with well over 100,000 such modules out there. The support requests related to this growth has increased to the point where we must start providing you the ability to purchase a renewal contract if you want to continue receiving updates and support for them. The alternative of continuing to give this away free would result in our resources being taken away from the core project, which simply hurts everyone and the project as a whole!

What does this change mean and how will it impact you?

For those of you with modules that are more then one year old meaning the year of updates has already expired, we will give you another two weeks free, through November 16th, where you can update any of those modules as has been the case since you purchased them. We’ll attempt to email you with this information proactively based on your portal contact information. (What … doesn’t everyone just follow our blog that we have to email? :)) Furthermore, we’ll provide you with a 15% discount incentive to purchase renewals in the next two week if you renew from this portal link and use discount code RENEWALS through November 15th. For any such renewals, your new anniversary date will be based on a November 16th expiration. This means, if you purchase a one-year renewal whether before or after November 16th, that renewal will be good through November 16th, 2016.

If you’ve purchased a module in the last 12 months you’ll continue to get updates until the anniversary date of your purchase. You’ll be notified in advance inside of Module Admin when you have modules that soon need renewals where you can make the purchases directly. You can also navigate to the portal to see a comprehensive view of all your module licenses on all your deployments, when they will need renewals, and have the ability to renew any of them there whether they have already expired or you just recent purchased them. Furthermore, the RENEWALS incentive is not only good for already expired renewals, you can be proactive and take advantage of it now even if you just bought a module yesterday! (You must use the portal to take advantage of the 15% promotion, from within FreePBX it will not be available.)

After November 16th, if you choose not to renew and there are updates available for those modules installed on your system, you will still be notified of the updates. You will have the option of purchasing a renewal in order to obtain them, which you can do right from the GUI.

Keeping FreePBX thriving for everyone

The FreePBX team is intensely dedicated to the ongoing success of this project and works tirelessly to make sure you continue to have a world class, feature rich and future proof system to bank your business and your customers’ businesses on. We are grateful to the community members who participate in the project – feeding ideas, code and project help to keep us moving forward. This change being announced will go a long way in assuring we can continue to do that. Whether you’re a consumer of these specialized modules or not, all of you depend on the continued investment in the core project’s long term viability. Enabling our ability to fund the ongoing support of these modules through renewals that have always been part of the licensing terms in our EULA will assure that we can continue providing the resources needed for all sides of the project and benefit everyone!

Renewing from FreePBX

When in FreePBX, if Renewals are coming up within 3 months, you can purchase them directly from the GUI. You will see Renewals that are available as seen in the following image.

gui

 

Upon clicking the Renewal button it will be added to your cart which you can view and go through the checkout process as shown:

module

 

When purchasing from portal, you have the option of renewing modules from multiple deployments in once checkout process if needed, AND you can take advantage of the RENEWALS discount code:

check-out

You are now set to continue receiving all the new enhancements (and bug fixes) that we continue to provide to you in these important modules that you depend on!