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Rob Lith

Rob Lith

ICT industry heavyweight and Internet specialist Rob Lith has been involved in the industry for the last 20 years. Coming from a strong sales background and with a lifelong interest in technology, Rob has an in-depth knowledge of Internet markets, technology and products. He sees VoIP, location based services and presence as the “next wave” of technological advancement. Rob started out in the retail sales business in London in 1978, returning to South Africa to join Compustat in 1989, soon moving up to Durban to head up its KZN branch. He found a like mind in Steve Davies, who became his long term collaborator. Rob extended his knowledge of the SA technology and Internet business at Internet Africa (which became UUNET, then WorldCom, then Verizon), before striking out on his own in 2003 to co-found Connection Telecom.

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Public, private or hybrid cloud PBX?

Tuesday, 10 July 2012 10:45 Published in Mobile
Public, private or hybrid cloud PBX?

Market preferences tracked from two perspectives

As cloud-based PBX deployments show accelerating growth, a fascinating sub-plot is unfolding, with public, private and hybrid installations all finding favour*. The question is – which configuration will gain preference as the market matures, and in what circumstances?

Industry perspective

From our point of view, public cloud installations are preferred in more than 56% of deployments, and private and hybrid installations in 22% of cases respectively.

When measured by extensions, the picture is reversed. Close to 60% of our extensions are private, while 12% are hybrid, and 28% public.

A clear inference can be made from this. Large companies, which represent a small base of our install base but the majority of extensions deployed, prefer private hosted solutions, while a large number of smaller customers, representing a comparatively small number of extensions, favours public.

Large companies prefer private cloud deployments because it allows them to leverage their considerable investments in high-end network and data resources and equipment, thus retaining control over the running and support of their deployments.

Connection Telecom’s hybrid install base is made up of a small but growing base of large customers, whether measured in customer numbers, sites (which may involve multiple branches or chain stores) or extensions.

These customers are planning to grow their solution footprint significantly, so in extension numbers they might in time get close to the number of private extensions out there for us.

Research view

Research has shed further light on this question, in the form of the ITWeb Unified Communications 2011 user survey.

The survey finds that, over the next two years, 23% of respondents will look at hosting private voice installations themselves. 28% will look at serviced provider-hosted private solutions; 16% at publicly-hosted solutions; and 32% at on-site least-cost routing installations (non-hosted). The private-public split is therefore 51%-16%, with no provision for hybrid implementations.

While it is impossible to compare the findings from ITWeb’s user-centric survey to Connection Telecom’s customer, site and extension metrics, the ITWeb sample base provides broad correlation of my observations.

Close to 25% of respondents of the survey represented small companies, while nearly 75% were from large enterprises. In that light, it is not surprising that a majority felt private installations were the way to go.


As cloud PBX adoption continues to accelerate, the above findings appear indicative of a market-wide trend. Depending on the customer split of a particular service provider, we think it is quite predictable what the public-private-hybrid weighting will be.


Public cloud implementations reside in off-site data centres owned by the service provider (SP). Private cloud implementations reside in customer-owned data centres, hosted by the customer or the SP, on- or off-site. Hybrid implementations reside in customer-owned data centres, and calls are carried out over a virtual private network via a public switch.


Virtualisation, the silent hero of call centres in the cloud

Friday, 15 June 2012 13:11 Published in Software
Cloud Call Centre

Eliminates wasteful infrastructure practices and improves customer service

Call centre satisfaction surveys – both from a customer and owner’s perspective – frequently point to frustrations that can be resolved with the use of sophisticated technology,
says Rob Lith, Director of Connection Telecom.

In this regard, virtualisation deserves special mention as a crucial enabler of modern call centres. It allows flexible scaling of capacity that reduces customer service frustrations, as well as cloud-based models that reduce the ownership burden of costly, complex resource management.

How does virtualisation work?

According to Wikipedia, virtualisation is the creation of a virtual rather than actual version of a computing resource for purposes of centralising resource management, improving scalability and improving utilisation.

Hardware virtualisation

For instance, a host computer running Microsoft Windows may host a virtual machine (VM) that simulatesguest computer hardware running, for example, an Ubuntu Linux operating system – thus allowing it to run Ubuntu-based application software.

The advantage of this is that a call centre isn’t restricted in its choice of application, or alternatively, doesn’t have to install dedicated hardware if it doesn’t want to compromise on the preferred solution.

Desktop virtualisation

Another form of virtualisation, desktop virtualisation, entails separating the desktop function in its entirety from the physical machine.

Using this model, users interact indirectly (via a network) with the host computer via physically different devices (another desktop or even a mobile device). Multiple different users can log in to the remote computer simultaneously.

Call centre benefits

For the call centre owner

In both these instances, virtualisation enables consolidation of data centre resources, allowing call centres and other enterprises to take advantage of the ease of management and improved utilisation of standard, rationalised infrastructure.

This has several spinoff advantages; including the ability to deploy a small IT team to manage the much smaller, standardised data centre footprint, as well as a smaller carbon footprint.

By contrast, non-virtualised call centres are by their very nature over-provisioned to cater for times of peak performance. They are therefore routinely underutilised, incurring immense upfront capital expenditure and on-going operations and maintenance cost.

Virtualisation can further be deployed on the client’s premises by simply slotting into the client’s virtual environment, with the benefit of greater control over infrastructure for the client.

For the end customer

In the case of desktop virtualisation, call centres can make use of virtual agents who can work from home in flexible working arrangements that cut down on travel and base camp real estate.

In peak business cycles, remote agents can be roped in on demand, with obvious spin-offs for customer satisfaction. And multinationals can deploy a follow-the-sun call centre competency spread across multiple geographies, again with customer service benefits.

Finally, desktop virtualisation also places less of a burden on client devices, as all the processing happens on the remote server. This has significant cost benefits.

No more frustration

Virtualisation is the silent enabler of cloud computing, bringing with it a multitude of benefits for the modern call centre and its customers.

With it, wasteful infrastructure practices and ponderous customer service are things of the past.

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