What business are we truly in?

In today’s constantly transforming digital landscape, particularly within telecommunications and internet services, it’s crucial to step back and reconsider: What business are we truly in?

Drawing inspiration from the insights of Theodore Levitt, a distinguished economist and Harvard Business School professor, we need to address potential myopia in our business approaches. Levitt’s paper, “Marketing Myopia”, published in the 1960s, offers critical perspectives that are astoundingly applicable in today’s industry scenarios.

Levitt was notably critical of companies that narrowly defined their businesses. For instance, he pointed out how the American railroad industry perceived itself as being strictly in the “railroad business” when they should have seen themselves in the broader “transportation business.” This limited viewpoint caused many rail companies to miss out on opportunities as transportation evolved with the advent of automobiles and aviation. They were so engrossed in rail that they failed to diversify into these new avenues, leading to a decline in their market dominance.

In another iconic observation, Levitt remarked, “People don’t want a quarter-inch drill; they want a quarter-inch hole.” This succinct statement underscores the essence of shifting from a product-centric to a customer-centric mindset. Instead of being fixated on the product itself (the drill), it’s crucial to discern the value or outcome these services render to the customer (the hole). Such a perspective ensures that companies remain relevant and valuable, focusing on solving real problems or fulfilling actual needs.

While it’s commendable to have a vast array of services, we must vigilantly avoid the pitfall of marketing myopia by concentrating solely on our offerings. Our primary objective should be facilitating efficient, secure, and smooth communication and data management for organisations and individuals. This means addressing our customers’ challenges and meeting their requirements rather than merely peddling our services.

There’s a danger in letting ego and self-deception cloud our vision. We need to proactively disrupt ourselves and adapt; otherwise, an external force will assuredly disrupt our status quo. Reflecting on history, several businesses experienced or are currently grappling with marketing myopia. Kodak, for instance, missed the digital camera revolution, allowing companies like Sony to dominate. Similarly, Nokia witnessed its market share plummet against Android and iOS.

Blockbuster, once the go-to for film rentals, failed to recognise the changing trends of media consumption, letting streaming services like Netflix offer a more convenient alternative. Blackberry dominated the early smartphone market but failed to innovate and keep pace with the intuitive interfaces of iOS and Android. Borders overlooked the digital revolution of books and paid the price when they lagged behind in the realm of e-books and online sales. Sears couldn’t compete with the rise of e-commerce and changing consumer preferences, leading to their downfall. Polaroid, despite their potential in the digital space, remained committed to instant film, leading to their decline.

In today’s competitive and rapidly changing business environment, particularly in the sphere of telecommunications, technology, and internet services, understanding and anticipating the needs of customers is paramount. As showcased by the examples mentioned, even titans in their industries can stumble if they become too narrow-minded or self-assured. The lessons from Levitt’s “Marketing Myopia” amplify the importance of self-reflection, adaptability, and understanding broader industry shifts.

Embracing a wider perspective isn’t merely a strategic move—it’s the bedrock of sustainable business philosophy. Especially in the telecommunications and technology sector, where rapid advancements are the norm, it’s essential to stay ahead, constantly gauging the industry landscape and decoding the ever-shifting desires and needs of the customer. This positions businesses to innovate in ways that not only meet but transcend customer expectations.

This commitment calls for vigilance and foresight. Merely reacting to changes won’t suffice; businesses need to be future-ready, anticipating shifts before they become evident. It demands a culture steeped in continuous learning, nimbleness, and above all, an unwavering dedication to understanding and enriching the customer experience.

Drawing it back to our core industry… Are we merely in the business of selling VoIP, Hosted PBX, UCaaS, CPaaS, SMS, Fibre, Wireless, Cyber Security, SD-WAN, Mobile Data APN, or Private Cloud hosting? Or, is our true purpose to deliver seamless, efficient, and secure communication and data platforms that strengthen both enterprises and individuals alike?

By anchoring our philosophy in the latter, we not only recognise the tangible products we offer but, more critically, the intangible value and solutions they bring to our clients. As the technological landscape keeps evolving, those who remain agile, discerning, and deeply committed to serving their customers’ true needs will undoubtedly be the vanguards of the future.

While embracing the teachings of Levitt is crucial, it is equally important to remember that adaptability and customer-centricity are not mere checkboxes but ongoing commitments. As the business world continues to evolve, those who remain agile, perceptive, and genuinely dedicated to serving their customers will be the ones to thrive and lead in the future.

Greg de Chasteauneuf, Chief Technology Officer at Saicom

The Evolution of Web Security: Unpacking TLS 1.2 and TLS 1.3


Numbers often paint a clearer picture than words. In September 2023, out of 135,583 sites surveyed, an intriguing 64.8% supported TLS v1.3, marking a 0.6% increase from just a month prior. On the other hand, a staggering 99.9% still supported TLS v1.2. These statistics caught my eye and prompted me to explore the underlying differences between TLS 1.2 and TLS 1.3. 

Furthermore, in the same survey a staggering 37.5% of the most popular websites in the world have inadequate security which could be susceptible to Insecure Renegotiation and the BEAST attack.

The near-universal adoption of TLS v1.2 reflects its long-standing influence in our digital world. Yet, the incremental yet steady growth in TLS v1.3 adoption is a strong indicator of where we’re headed. The modest 0.6% increase month-over-month may not seem groundbreaking, but it represents a significant number of sites opting for a more secure and efficient protocol. These trends validate what I’ve been noticing—an ongoing transition towards enhanced security and performance. 

So, what is TLS and Why is It Important?

Before diving into the differences between the two versions, let’s discuss what TLS actually is and why it’s so crucial in today’s digital age. TLS, or Transport Layer Security, is a cryptographic protocol designed to provide secure communications over a computer network. In simpler terms, it’s the technology that encrypts the data sent between your web browser and a server, ensuring that sensitive information such as login credentials, financial data, or personal details remain private and protected.

The importance of TLS cannot be overstated. In a world where cyber-attacks are increasingly sophisticated and common, the role of secure communication channels is vital. Without TLS, any data transmitted over the internet would be easily accessible to cybercriminals, putting both individuals and organisations at risk.

A Glimpse at TLS 1.2

Launched in 2008, TLS 1.2 emerged as a significant improvement over its forerunners. It expanded the variety of cipher suites and introduced features like authenticated encryption, strengthening its security capabilities.

An Introduction to TLS 1.3

Fast forward to 2018, and TLS 1.3 bursts onto the scene. Aiming for a minimalist approach, TLS 1.3 focuses on enhancing speed and security, effectively cutting off the unnecessary frills and insecure features.

Summary of the differences

Delving into the Key Differences

Handshake Process

In TLS 1.2, the handshake process involves two primary phases—first is the “ClientHello” message followed by a “ServerHello” message, and then the client and server exchange several more messages to establish encryption settings and authentication. Each phase requires a round-trip, adding latency to the entire process.

In contrast, TLS 1.3 has streamlined this operation down to just a single round-trip. The server configuration is either remembered by the client or presented in an encrypted extension, meaning the process moves directly from “ClientHello” to sharing encrypted data. This efficiency reduces connection times and is especially beneficial in mobile environments where latency is a frequent concern.

Cipher Suites

TLS 1.2 supports a wide variety of cipher suites, including many that are no longer considered secure, like RC4. This opens up potential vulnerabilities and necessitates careful server configuration to avoid weak ciphers.

TLS 1.3, however, reduces this risk by supporting a more constrained list of cipher suites, all of which offer robust security. For instance, the only bulk encryption algorithms supported are AES-GCM, AES-CCM, and ChaCha20-Poly1305, all of which are highly secure and efficient.

Session Resumption

In TLS 1.2, session resumption is facilitated through Session IDs or Session Tickets. Although these methods are secure, they often involve storing state information on the server or the client, impacting scalability and requiring more computational resources.

TLS 1.3 adopts a more efficient approach using Pre-shared Keys (PSK) for session resumption, eliminating the need for storing state information and enabling quicker and more secure resumption of previous sessions.

Legacy Algorithms

TLS 1.2 is more lenient in supporting legacy algorithms, some of which are insecure or less efficient, such as SHA-1 for hashing. This backward compatibility can sometimes be a drawback, as it exposes the network to vulnerabilities inherent in older algorithms.

In contrast, TLS 1.3 eliminates this issue by deprecating all legacy algorithms deemed insecure, focusing solely on strong and efficient cryptographic primitives.

Forward Secrecy

In TLS 1.2, Forward Secrecy is optional and relies on the server configuration to be enabled, which means that previous encrypted sessions may be compromised if the server’s private key is exposed.

In TLS 1.3, Forward Secrecy is not an optional feature but a mandatory one. This ensures that even if a server’s long-term secret key is compromised, past sessions remain secure.

Zero Round-Trip Time (0-RTT)

Zero Round-Trip Time (0-RTT) is a new feature exclusive to TLS 1.3. This feature enables clients to send data to the server in the very first round-trip, without waiting for the server’s acknowledgment. This reduces latency significantly but does come with some potential replay attack risks, which is why it is often best suited for idempotent operations.

Implications for Certificate Inspection and Man-in-the-Middle on Firewalls

The Traditional Role of MITM in Firewalls

Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) techniques have historically been a significant component of firewall setups for enterprises. By intercepting and decrypting SSL/TLS traffic, the firewall could inspect the data for malicious content before re-encrypting and sending it to its intended destination. This has long been considered a necessary trade-off to balance security and visibility within an organisation’s network.

Challenges Posed by TLS 1.3

TLS 1.3 introduces several changes that render traditional MITM techniques less effective, or at least more challenging to implement:

  1. Removal of Certain Cipher Suites – TLS 1.3’s trimmed-down list of cipher suites means that older, insecure, but more easily inspectable cipher suites are no longer an option. Firewalls that depended on these for easier decryption will have to adapt.
  2. Mandatory Forward Secrecy – Forward Secrecy ensures that even if a server’s private key is compromised, historical encrypted traffic cannot be decrypted. While this is excellent for privacy and security, it poses a challenge for firewalls that rely on static keys for decryption.
  3. Encrypted Server Parameters – In TLS 1.3, much of the handshake metadata itself is encrypted, making it harder for a MITM device to determine the specifics of the encrypted session. Previously, some firewalls relied on this metadata for decision-making in security policies.
  4. 0-RTT and Session Resumption – Features like Zero Round-Trip Time (0-RTT) for faster session resumption also complicate MITM strategies. Since the client can send encrypted data immediately, firewalls have a smaller window for inspection.

Adaptation Strategies for Firewalls

Given these changes, firewall vendors and security professionals are adapting their MITM approaches. Some of the strategies include:

  • Updating Cipher Suite Support – Firewalls must support the modern cipher suites that TLS 1.3 uses.
  • Dynamic Key Exchange – To accommodate forward secrecy, firewalls are moving toward techniques that allow for dynamic key exchanges between the firewall and the internal servers, effectively “participating” in the handshake rather than merely intercepting it.
  • Protocol Fingerprinting – As a workaround for the loss of visible metadata, some advanced firewalls are developing ways to fingerprint encrypted traffic based on other observable characteristics.
  • Selective Inspection – Given the challenges in decrypting TLS 1.3 traffic, some organisations are opting for a selective approach, focusing on inspecting only the traffic that matches certain risk profiles.

By understanding the technical implications of TLS 1.3 on traditional MITM strategies, organisations can better prepare their firewalls and security postures for the modern web landscape. It’s a shift that calls for proactive adaptation rather than reactive troubleshooting.

Final Thoughts

The progression from TLS 1.2 to TLS 1.3 isn’t just a technical upgrade; it’s a comprehensive overhaul that significantly enhances both security and efficiency. With cyber threats becoming increasingly sophisticated, the shift to TLS 1.3 is not just timely but also crucial for safeguarding data exchanges. For enterprises and security experts, understanding these changes is vital for adapting security strategies and ensuring that firewall setups are aligned with contemporary security standards.

Enhancing PCI Compliance and Security with Private APNs

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a crucial regulatory framework that ensures the security and privacy of credit card transactions across various industries. With an increasing number of cyber threats and vulnerabilities, it is essential for businesses that process credit card transactions to stay updated with the latest security practices. One such practice is using a Private Access Point Name (APN) for transmitting sensitive data. While not explicitly required by the PCI DSS, private APNs can provide an additional layer of security for organisations seeking to bolster their network protection.

The Benefits of Private APNs

A private APN is a customised network gateway that allows mobile devices to access a specific private network. By implementing a private APN, organisations can isolate their traffic from public networks, significantly reducing the potential attack surface. This isolation helps to prevent unauthorised access to sensitive cardholder data, thus complementing the security measures outlined in the PCI DSS.

Private APNs offer several benefits, including:

  • Enhanced Security: By isolating network traffic, private APNs create an additional barrier against cyber threats and minimise the risk of unauthorised access to sensitive information.
  • Customisation: Private APNs can be tailored to an organisation’s specific security requirements, offering greater control over data transmission and network access.
  • Improved Performance: As private APNs separate an organisation’s traffic from public networks, they can provide better performance and reliability for data transmission.

Complying with PCI DSS

While private APNs can offer valuable security benefits, it is crucial for organisations to remember that they are not a substitute for PCI DSS compliance. To ensure full compliance, businesses should adhere to the specific requirements of the standard, including:

  • Network Security: Implementing robust firewalls, encryption, and secure connections to protect cardholder data.
  • Data Protection: Safeguarding stored cardholder data and ensuring that it is only retained as long as necessary.
  • Vulnerability Management: Regularly updating and patching software to protect against known vulnerabilities.
  • Access Control: Restricting access to cardholder data on a need-to-know basis and implementing strong authentication measures.
  • Monitoring and Testing: Regularly testing and monitoring network resources to detect and address potential security threats.
  • Information Security Policies: Establishing and maintaining clear, up-to-date security policies and procedures.

While not explicitly mandated by the PCI DSS, private APNs can play a valuable role in enhancing your organisation’s network security. By combining the use of private APNs with strict adherence to the PCI DSS requirements, businesses can better protect sensitive cardholder data and mitigate the risks associated with cyber threats.

Greg de Chasteauneuf, Chief Technology Officer of Saicom

7 Reasons Why You Should Choose a Private Cloud Company Over a Public Cloud Hyperscaler

Cloud computing has become an indispensable part of modern business operations. With the rise of public cloud hyperscalers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, organisations have been quick to jump on the bandwagon, leveraging these platforms for their various cloud needs. However, the debate over the benefits of public cloud hyperscalers vs. private cloud providers continues to brew. In this post, I’ll explore several reasons why you should think twice about using hyperscalers and consider private cloud companies instead.

1. Customisation and Flexibility

Hyperscalers offer a broad range of services and features, but they often come with a one-size-fits-all approach. This can lead to a lack of customisation and flexibility for businesses with unique needs. On the other hand, private cloud companies can provide tailor-made solutions specifically designed for your organisation’s requirements. This flexibility allows you to optimise your infrastructure, streamline processes, and ultimately reduce costs.

2. Data Security and Privacy

Data security and privacy are critical concerns for any organisation. While public cloud hyperscalers invest heavily in security measures, their sheer size and popularity make them more attractive targets for cybercriminals. In contrast, private cloud companies can offer a more secure environment, with less exposure to potential threats. Additionally, private cloud providers often have more stringent data privacy policies and can comply with specific industry regulations, ensuring your sensitive information remains protected.

3. Personalised Support

Hyperscalers often cater to a massive client base, which can lead to impersonal and sometimes slow customer support. Private cloud companies, however, are better equipped to offer personalised, dedicated support. They can assign account managers or support teams that intimately understand your organisation’s needs, enabling faster issue resolution and more effective communication.

4. Cost Predictability

Public cloud hyperscalers usually employ a pay-as-you-go pricing model, which can lead to unpredictable costs as your usage scales up or down. This variability can make it difficult for organisations to accurately budget and forecast expenses. Private cloud companies, however, typically offer more predictable pricing structures, including fixed monthly or yearly fees. This predictability allows for better financial planning and cost control.

5. Vendor Lock-in Risks

As organisations become more reliant on hyperscaler services, they may find themselves locked into a specific platform. This dependency can lead to increased costs and reduced flexibility, as migrating to another provider may be time-consuming and expensive. Private cloud companies often provide more open and interoperable solutions, allowing you to avoid vendor lock-in and maintain the freedom to switch providers if necessary.

6. Supporting Local Economies

By choosing a private cloud company, especially those operating within your country or region, you contribute to the growth of local businesses and economies. This not only fosters innovation within your area but also helps support job creation and economic development. Moreover, local private cloud providers are more likely to understand the unique needs and regulations of your region, further enhancing your overall cloud experience.

7. Data Sovereignty

Data sovereignty refers to the legal requirement that an organisation’s data be stored and processed within the borders of a specific country or region. Public cloud hyperscalers, with their global infrastructure, may not always be able to guarantee that your data remains within your desired jurisdiction, which can lead to potential compliance issues. Private cloud companies, particularly those operating locally, are more likely to adhere to data sovereignty requirements and ensure that your data remains within the designated borders. This can help you avoid legal complications and maintain compliance
with local regulations.

While hyperscalers have their advantages, private cloud companies offer a compelling alternative for organisations seeking customisation, flexibility, enhanced security, and personalised support. By carefully evaluating your organisation’s needs and priorities, you can make a more informed decision regarding your cloud provider and enjoy the benefits of a tailored solution that aligns with your unique requirements.

Greg de Chasteauneuf, Chief Technology Officer of Saicom

Unlocking the business benefits of APN technology

Many South African companies had a knee-jerk reaction during COVID and started using whatever connectivity was available to ensure operations could continue while employees worked from home. But what was initially only going to be a 21-day hard lockdown period got extended with varying levels of restrictions, which only ended recently, more than two years later.

This extended lockdown, and subsequent work from home (or from anywhere) model, contributed to a mobile data explosion as SIM cards were purchased in bulk from retailers and distributed to staff.

Between December 2019 and March 2020 (when the lockdown began), Saicom saw a threefold increase in mobile data usage. Since March 2020, until the end of lockdown a few weeks ago, there has been an elevenfold increase in demand for mobile data.

Managing this expanding SIM real estate over the long term has become a challenge for business decision-makers, who are turning to Access Point Name (APN) as a potential solution.

Access point name, or APN for short, is the name of the gateway that connects a mobile network with the internet. Or put another way, the identity of the mobile carrier so that the device knows which carrier network it should connect to. AN APN is like a virtual network overlaid over the Mobile Network Operator (MNO), giving service providers and corporate customers the use of the MNO’s network as an extension of their own.

Despite things returning to a semblance of normality, many organisations are still using APN as a risk mitigation solution and because of its centralised SIM management functionality, businesses have started tapping into numerous other use cases for the technology within their organisations.

Beyond work from home

So, while APN does provide benefits under certain conditions to work from home, such as white and blacklisting applications which employees can and cannot use to reduce mobile data abuse, its potential is so much bigger.

Every industry can benefit from APN. For instance, using telemetry data to improve fleet management for logistics companies. SIMs connected to IoT sensors can proactively monitor truck performance and flag the need for maintenance.

Symbol for connectivity with tracking icons

On the mobile workforce side, APN is about more than simply monitoring mobile workers and salespeople. For companies reliant on deliveries, APN technology is the key to securely connecting and monitoring tablets for delivery drivers to optimise their routes while tracking packages and keeping customers informed throughout the process.

In fact, the location-tracking functionality available through APN enables companies to monitor the whereabouts of any connected equipment, vehicles, products, and even team members. Not only can the security of these assets be improved, but organisations can better manage supply chains to ensure stores maintain stock levels of products that are the most popular. Additionally, APN can facilitate effective machine to machine (M2M) communications to track temperatures of sensitive goods and send alerts when something goes wrong.

The next level

From a consumer perspective, APN makes sense for the spate of connected wearables (think smartwatches) and even connected cars (for insurance purposes).

Person tying shoe laces with wearables and connected apps

While APN is still used today to optimise costs in work from home situations, the technology can also deliver improved security, control, and manageability through a single portal that provides companies with the scalability they need to take care of a mobile workforce.

Ultimately, APN delivers value across a variety of use cases that extends far beyond what many decision-makers thought. And COVID was the catalyst to introduce APN into the workplace with new business cases beyond just connectivity.

Greg de Chasteauneuf, Chief Technology Officer of Saicom

Transitioning to true hybrid work collaboration

Most employees would still like to work remotely at least some of the time, reinforcing the sentiment that we will never return to the fully office-based environment of the past. Embracing the tools and platforms that enable hybrid work will be critical. But these need to balance security and bandwidth concerns with a willingness to improve familiarity with remote solutions and processes.

Central to this, is rethinking how voice and networking technologies can unlock business capabilities. According to the Microsoft State of Work Report, the majority of decision-makers in the US and India believe that the right technology can enable the remote workforce to be very effective. However, handling the transition from a completely remote environment due to the lockdown conditions of the past two years and one that reflects the potential of hybrid will be key to success.

The good news is that there are solutions available that can provide a foundation on which to build an enabling tech-driven work environment.

Cloud Potential

Woman on laptop with headset

The potential of SD-WAN, connectivity, cloud PBX and voice have been made clear even before the pandemic. Despite this, there are business leaders who still do not understand how to get the best out of a more integrated voice and networking environment and learning to optimally collaborate and work from home have become one of the key organisational priorities. Doing so securely while still maintaining a corporate identity and nurturing the company culture are the others.

The result is the establishment of virtual collaboration sites where employees share and edit content, chat to one another, video call, use Web services, and so on. The likes of Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 have become instrumental in providing the means to do so. And now that this has been done, even at a superficial level, companies can further enhance such environments by integrating collaboration with cloud PBX calling.

By injecting direct routing capabilities into these platforms, companies can further accelerate hybrid work and bridge the divide between the old way of working and the new. Even so, McKinsey believes that decision-makers must be aware that the potential for remote work is determined by tasks and activities, not occupations. Across all sectors, 38% of respondents in its survey expect their remote employees to work two or more days a week away from the office after the pandemic, compared to 22% of respondents surveyed before the pandemic.

Physical to virtual

Having voice and cloud voice services connected to the Teams endpoint means collaboration between employees (from an internal perspective) and customers (externally) can take place more effectively than before. This also reduces the number of platforms that the user and company need to support and interact with, significantly simplifying the entire engagement process.
For example, a boardroom takes up a significant amount of office real estate. And how often is it really used? Instead, businesses can deploy huddle rooms where people can collaborate in more manageable environments. They will also use Teams Meeting Rooms as the means to engage with one another. Invariably, this will result in the legacy boardroom shrinking, and the organisation much better able to deliver targeted environments more conducive to teamwork.

Talk anywhere

Woman in coffee shop speaking on her mobile phone

This will also create the impetus to transition from on-premises PBX solutions to cloud-based ones.

Additionally, direct routing can be used to integrate the cloud PBX into the collaboration platforms and employees can be reached on one number, whether at the office or working from home. They can dial out directly from Teams to any telephone number in the world, and access all of this through their mobile devices.

The enhancements in productivity by having an integrated environment cannot be ignored.

However, the security of mobile devices, become more crucial than ever. To this end, mobile device management will become a critical business component as collaboration extends beyond the desktop to the smartphone and tablet.

Platforms like Teams, direct routing technology, and even SD-WAN functionality mean different things to different people. But it all comes down to how the use of these solutions can deliver the strategic value vital to grow the business in a digitally-driven world where hybrid work will be the way of the future.

Ultimately, the organisation must ask itself what it wants to accomplish from this collaborative environment and identifying the quick wins and business use cases can make a significant difference to the company, its people and ultimately, its productivity.

The modern workplace needs to use integrated solutions that deliver a consistent and collaborative experience regardless of whether employees are interfacing face-to-face or remotely. By creating this universal approach to tools and collaboration, companies can significantly improve adoption and engagement as employees embrace this new way of working together.

Michael Ziervogel, GM: Microsoft Division at Saicom

5 Ways the right VoIP platform sets your business up for success

Since its introduction in the market, more and more companies have switched from using regular phone lines to Voice over Internet Protocol (or VoIP).  In South Africa, the ageing copper infrastructure and limited capabilities of traditional fixed line telephony make for compelling reasons to look at VoIP as a more scalable, flexible and agile telephony solution, with the added benefit of being able to do more than just make and receive calls.

VOIP headset with phone

What is the difference between VoIP and IP telephony?

VoIP is the method used to place and receive phone calls over the internet.  Virtual telephony, virtual calling and online phone systems are other words used to describe VoIP.  

In its day, Skype was the VoIP  platform of choice.  Today, it could be Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet. When you make a VoIP call, there is no breakout to traditional fixed line networks.  We call this point-to-point calling (Teams to Teams, Zoom to Zoom or Google Meet to Google Meet)

So how is IP Telephony different?  IP telephony uses VoIP technology, but has access to traditional calling platforms. Simply put, you can make calls from your VoIP platform, to a fixed or mobile line or even a different VoIP calling platform.

In this article, we talk interchangeably about VoIP and IP Telephony and refer to both, as VoIP.

How does VoIP work?

VoIP technology is designed to work across a range of devices, including smartphones, laptops, desktop computers and tablets. It uses Digital Signal Processors (DSPs) to encode analogue voice into IP packets and packet switching technology transmits the IP packets over the internet. DSPs then decode the IP packets back into analogue voice on the receiving end.  

This is done as a person to person (or point to point) connection.

Today, many organisations are leveraging their VoIP capabilities and integrating IP telephony tools, to give access to hosted PBX and business communications systems like UnifyOne with Webex or Microsoft Teams.  Not only are they able to make calls to fixed or mobile lines on traditional networks, but they get access to even more useful features like fully featured cloud calling, messaging, file sharing, screen sharing, and more.

VOIP Handset With Collaboration Icons

5 Ways VoIP can benefit your business

The right VoIP platform allows you to streamline operations and communications, making it possible for team members to work more effectively and with greater ease. 

Choosing the right VoIP platform for your business starts with understanding how it will be used not only today, but also in the future.  It needs to offer scalability to account for future growth in operations. 

Let’s find out more about the benefits of the ideal VoIP platform  for businesses:

1. Reduce costs: cheaper call rates & minimal maintenance costs

VoIP provides businesses with a cost effective alternative to fixed line, on-premise PBX phone systems. It is estimated that call rates on VoIP can be up to 65% less than landline call rates.  

In addition, traditional phone systems require on-site maintenance – which can include call out fees, labour fees and hardware costs, upgrades and additional licences.

With VoIP, business communication is run in the cloud, and managed by dedicated specialists, providing an easily accessible usage dashboard, to monitor incoming and outgoing calls across the telephony environment. 

VoIP upgrades are done in, and via the cloud with nominal impact on the telephony system.

2. Get rid of costly, bulky phone systems taking up critical office space

VoIP allows businesses to streamline their communications by taking operations digital. 

Let’s compare VoIP phone systems and traditional landline systems and their components.

Traditionally an office would have phone lines, connectivity and on-site PBX.  Each component is essential to the system and its effective functioning, and for a growing business this is not only costly, but it takes up space. 

Space that could be used for workstations, meeting rooms or additional office space.  When businesses migrate to VoIP they remove the phone lines and on-site PBX and instead use the data circuits to carry those services.

Some businesses may choose to receive VoIP handsets once connected, but in the modern day, businesses are able to handle communications using their smartphones, laptops, tablets and other devices using mobile and desktop VoIP soft clients. .

3. Better calling features, quality and collaboration

The quality of VoIP calls including the features are often dependent on the reliability of the business’ internet network, a mobile network and the VoIP service provider. 

With a fast and reliable internet connection, and a VoIP service provider with a good  reputation, VoIP calls can create improved speech clarity and provide access to an array of features. .

Maintaining a reliable and secure connection, and being able to communicate seamlessly with crisp audio and video, while collaborating with your participants, can provide more opportunities to pursue quality leads and partnerships, and improve your current workflow with clients. 

A better communication system can stimulate increased productivity and accountability, between team members and clients. Team members can also make and receive calls on the move, by connecting the VoIP service to their mobile devices. This is useful for the modern world of remote work, and team members travelling for work.

4. Uninterrupted services

We know that businesses cannot afford to be offline, or out of reach of customers. 

At Saicom, our uptime for VoIP services is 99.98%, and the white glove service we deliver, means faults and downtime is quickly and effectively resolved.  

To ensure uninterrupted service through loadshedding and power outages, a small and cost effective UPS (uninterrupted power supply) or alternative power supply that keeps the internet router and fibre box running is sufficient.  

You can rely on VoIP being online 

One of the most significant benefits of  switching to VoIP, is the seamless transition to better technology, without losing existing business contact details.

5. Access more features designed to help businesses thrive

We have already covered some of the ways that VoIP can help your business succeed, however, there are even more helpful features to help streamline business communications.

Some of VoIP’s key features for businesses include:

Call recording, rating & voice analytics: Record calls for business and client transparency, and rate interactions to improve customer experience metrics. Voice analytics can be used to evaluate agent performance (and quality assurance); gauge and track sentiment in the customer experience and deliver compliance through transcription.
Voicemail to email: Receive voicemail via email
Receptionist : VoIP systems allow you to enable virtual receptionist functionalities improving efficiency and saving on hiring costs.
Auto attendant & IVR (Interactive Voice Response) VoIP systems make it possible for calls to be directed to the right extensions without the need for intervention by a front-of-office person.
With IVR, businesses are able to interact with callers through menu-based options.
CRM Integration Integrate your CRM platform with your hosted PBX. Get a pop-up from your CRM , showing the caller’s details, when a call is received.

VOIP conference call on laptop

Which VoIP Software and service provider should I choose?

VoIP systems can be expanded or upgraded seamlessly, however, having the right system in place early on can make the transition between on-premise  PBX phone systems to VoIP much easier in the medium-term. 

Always consider the needs of your business when choosing a partner, and VoIP solution. The benefits of transitioning to VoIP can be unlocked with a reliable internet connection and working with a reputable, trusted VoIP service provider, with a track record for delivering best fit, best-of-breed solutions.

We deliver world class call quality, a dedicated support team and 99.98% uptime for VoIP services,  nationally 

We have quick turnaround times and are ready to meet your business’ exact communication needs. Contact Saicom today!

The phone is dead, long live the (digital) phone

In the not too distant future, half of the world’s connected population will be using collaboration tools. As part of this shift towards an integrated, digital way of working, how we view the phone will also change. Thanks to the growth of Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, and Zoom, this has already started to happen.

Considering that the global demand for unified communications as a service (UCaaS) is expected to triple and top $140 billion by 2025, the traditional handset market will be all but dead. As critical mass starts to build in Teams, Webex, Zoom, and others, standards that enable federation between these different platforms will mature and eventually become a reality. What this means in layman’s terms is that a user will be able to instant message, video call, or see presence information regardless of the platform they use.

Even IP-based business phone systems like cloud PBX services will eventually be gobbled up by UCaaS providers. This is due to fewer people making extension calls or using the functionality of the PBX in a distributed working environment despite it being integrated into the UCaaS platform. The disruption resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has and will still kill many industries within the telecommunications space.

Changing tides

In fact, unified communications will become one of the most important sectors in this changing new environment. Already, we are seeing Microsoft Teams dominating the market share in South Africa.

While this does not mean Webex and Zoom are irrelevant, they simply do not have the market reach and brand awareness of Microsoft in this geography.

Increasingly, people will make and receive calls from inside these platforms. This more integrated environment offers significant advantages to having separate devices (like IP-based business phones).

Licensing channel

Moreover, this will result in local service providers needing to shift their operating models.

No longer able to purely rely on hardware, cloud PABX, and voice minutes, they must begin to investigate the licensing model with Microsoft and other vendors. The reality is that resellers will start losing out on their seat licenses and need to make up for it using other means.

For customers, the transition should be a smooth one. If anything, things will become even more integrated for them with calling, messaging, collaboration, and everything in between available from within their application environments.

Direct routing (the dial pad in the app) is the way to go if operations are going to be future-proofed for any external factors driving change in the telecommunications market.

And while businesses and vendors are adjusting to more integrated, and seamless communications, at speed, service providers cannot continue to operate the same way. It is time for them to not only reinvent themselves, but also how they provide communication services. Change is inevitable, or they face the risk of becoming obsolete in a rapidly changing communications landscape.

Lean into the opportunities provided by UCaaS today with Saicom’s UnifyOne with Webex

Greg de Chasteauneuf, Chief Technology Officer of Saicom

8 Benefits of Mobile APN for Businesses

You might have heard about a mobile APN before, but what really is it and how does it benefit businesses? 

We’ll give you the rundown on exactly what to expect from a mobile APN solution and how it can streamline your business’ communications. 

Let’s find out a little bit more about APN below

Employee communicating from home using mobile device & mobile APN.

In this blog we are going to cover some key APN related topics and themes

What does APN stand for? 

APN stands for Access Point Name (APN). 

It is the name given to the gateway between a 3G/LTE/5G mobile network and another computer network, accessing the public internet or virtual private network (VPN). 

It is a unique identifier that allows a connection to the network and identifies the data access services associated with your account. The APN is the exit point from the mobile network operator’s (MNO) 3G/LTE/5G network into either the public internet or a private network.

What is an APN and how does it work?

A mobile APN can deliver a secure connection that creates a private network on a mobile device, protecting information and linking multiple devices together.

This means a business or organisation can manage multiple SIMs, each delivering data connectivity through a private APN to remote workers. The company can set usage caps for employees, and view bandwidth on an application level, for example whether the user is accessing social networks or work-related sites.

Ultimately, a mobile APN can significantly reduce data spend in the organisation as management has an integrated reporting environment with a universal view of how employees use their mobile data. A mobile APN solution can also use prepaid or postpaid data to provide complete budgetary control.

Employee remote working in a coffee shop using their mobile phone for a call.

Types of APNs

There are a few types of APNs businesses might implement depending on their communication needs. 

With the right type of APN, it’s possible to streamline communications and provide an enterprise with an array of benefits. 

Public APN Network

  • Shared Firewall
  • Firewall lite

A Public APN provides mobile internet access, allowing your mobile workforce to connect to the internet, on common ports and protocols. 

With Saicom’s Public APN solution, IP addresses are allocated either statically or dynamically, and traffic is routed out to the internet via a centralised Firewall. 

Here is how Saicom’s public APN works:

apn diagram - how does a public apn work?

Private APN (also known as a Corporate APN)

A private APN provides clients with a higher level of control and customisation than a public APN solution. 

It  can be likened to implementing a VPN on a mobile network connection. 

With a private APN, businesses can control activities at an application level, and a mobile workforce’s communication is routed using custom  configurations to connect users to a  business’ Head office or data centre (either  via an MPLS or SD-WAN network). 

Traffic might also be routed through a dedicated or shared firewall, or into a data centre or hosting environment.

Learn how a private APN  solution, through Saicom, works below: 

apn diagram - how does a private apn work?

8 Benefits of Mobile APN for Businesses

1. Central management of data usage & budget

A mobile APN solution acts as a way to manage SIMs, carriers, users and departments.

Each device connected to the business’ APN can be analysed to determine usage, from minutes and megabytes used, to understanding which applications are behind the most data usage. 

Analytics are provided via an easy to use  management portal that can also help the business  institute budget control methods. 

 These controls may include setting specific rules for blocking applications and sites, or implementing usage caps for devices. 

Stakeholders can also choose  to receive notifications about data usage percentages throughout the month. 

manager at her desk analysing usage of devices in the workplace.

2. Soft lock and unlock SIMs in real-time 

Administrators are able to soft-lock SIMs and unlock them in real-time. 

A soft lock restricts a device from making outgoing calls but the device can still receive incoming calls. 

This can be useful if a particular device has reached its usage cap, been lost or if a third party is using a specific device.

employee place call from iPhone from their desk.using a specific device.

3. Centralised billing for all users and devices

Monitoring the billing associated with  devices across a large mobile workforce doesn’t have to be stressful. 

From a billing perspective it might appear that one may need to monitor the usage of each individual sim card and therefore handle separate bills for each and every device owned by the business. 

However, this isn’t the case. 

A Mobile APN mitigates the need for complicated billing for a company’s mobile communications and data use. Although devices might have varying sim cards and carriers, each device is connected to a shared, public or private APN. 

A  shared APN allows businesses to monitor and settle the charges associated with the communication and data use across an entire company – streamlining billing management headaches. 

stakeholder managing central billing for employees’ communication devices.

4. Provide devices with specific static IP addresses

Mobile APN solution providers are able to assign specific APN settings

Giving company devices static IP addresses is typically one of these options, allowing the business to keep track of the usage associated with specific company devices and their owners. This is crucial for data management and billing purposes, helping the business analyse their data usage in alignment with their budget and informing smarter decisions in the future.

devices placed on table with different static IP addresses.

5. Multiple carrier options for reliable connectivity.

A mobile APN solution provides high speed national mobile data coverage (LTE, HSPA+, 3G, 4G and Edge) across a wide range of carriers (including MTN, Vodacom and Telkom). 

With a mobile APN solution businesses can connect devices in remote locations where fIbre and/or ADSL are not available. 

Carrier flexibility can enable mobile workforces to gain the best coverage wherever they are situated. 

Supported Networks

saicom mobile logo vodacom
saicom mobile logo telkom

6. Protect communications and devices with a selection of security options.

When implementing a mobile APN solution, the business has access to a variety of security options to protect their communications with ease. 

APN solutions are typically public or private – meaning that data is either routed through the Internet using common ports and protocols or using a custom routing configuration that can be used to connect a workforce to its headquarters. It is also possible to select whether the business wants its traffic to be routed through either a shared firewall or a dedicated firewall. 

This customisability allows a business to select just how confidential and secure they would like their communications to be. 

In addition, once a mobile APN solution has been implemented, the business is able to access other security features such as pairing the ICCID of a device to the IMEI number associated with the SIM card – rendering a sim card useless unless used with the correct device.

security lock icon on device

7. Scalable communications management for large workforces

APN solutions are ideal for businesses of all sizes. 

A mobile APN solution allows you to manage multiple APNs, companies, departments, individuals and their SIMs. 

It’s a no-brainer for large corporate companies with multiple branches, divisions as well as enterprises with hundreds or even thousands of employees and devices

employee communicating via video call with other employees using a mobile apn data solution.

8. Get access to company infrastructure off-site

Implementing a private APN setup can provide employees with access to company infrastructure that is connected to the business’ network.

This could mean providing an employee with access to a private email server, or the ability to view video feeds for the business’ security cameras. 

The business will still be able to control and analyse which devices access parts of the company’s network.

employee working on laptop accessing company files off-site

Get started with a mobile APN solution that suits your business’ needs.

So we’ve covered how an APN can offer a wide range of benefits for a business especially with the rise of remote working which has made data security and mobile connectivity an even more essential part of a business’ considerations. 

Setting up an APN solution requires minimal infrastructure and is such a great option for mobile workforces working as part of small, medium or large businesses.

If you are interested in mobile APN solutions for your business, contact us. We can assess your specific needs and risks and provide specific mobile APN solutions for your business

Too big to fail. Too large to care – why small tech means business

Too Big to Fail (TBTF) is a theory that over time has become synonymous in banking and finance industries. It is built on the tenet, that certain corporations, particularly financial institutions, become so large and so interconnected that their failure would be disastrous to the greater economic system and that they, therefore, must be supported by governments when they face potential failure.

More recently however, we have started to see the emergence of the too large to care theory, in the telecommunications industry. And we find ourselves in the midst of an ongoing battle with many Davids and Goliaths.

For the most part, the Davids of the ICT industry cannot compete with the bottomless budgets that the Goliaths have at their disposal for everything from marketing spend, uncapped operational resources, legal counsel, or inorganic growth strategies.

Even with so much stacked against the Davids, the idea that traditional large companies can’t innovate, and that smaller agile companies will render many of them extinct, is rife. It is clear that large, established tech corporations are being increasingly displaced by small tech companies that are bold enough to use new technologies, develop uncharacteristic solutions, propose against the grain ideology, and deliver left-field blueprints.

Innovate don’t replicate

Contrary to popular belief, mainstream media, and the plethora of advertising spend by large companies, they are delivering very little innovation. They do not innovate, but replicate, driven by bottom lines, GPs, revenue, market share and corporate image.

The result?

They are being outsmarted, outwitted and disrupted by small tech companies that are thriving, continuously investing in tech and innovation with intangible assets, thinking on their feet, making decisions within hours, while at the same time, keeping their only asset top of mind, the customer.

Small businesses, particularly in the tech space, fundamentally have two key differentiators:

The ability to care
The agility to action

More importantly, they are focusing their efforts and resources on solving client challenges, and creating bespoke solutions to overcome client pain points.

Customers first

BYOC, because it is born in the cloud, lends itself to the scalability required for modern organisations. Whether it is a handful of users, or thousands, BYOC and UCaaS deliver the flexibility and functionality needed to scale up or down as necessary.

With more people adopting a hybrid work approach and looking for technology to make them as productive as possible, the pandemic has been the catalyst for UCaaS and BYOC to provide businesses with simplified management for their communication environments.

If the last 24 months have taught us anything, it is that flexibility and agility are critical for businesses across all industries and solving challenges at pace will always differentiate the innovators from the imitators.

ICT landscapes are transforming, and the captains of industries should be asking themselves if their incumbent providers are able to anticipate, navigate and provide future forward solutions.

Some of the top priorities for CIOs, CTOs, CFOs and Heads of ICT in 2021 are digital transformation, cybersecurity and cloud migration. Customer-centricity and experience is also a top priority, indicating the continued importance of a customer-centric attitude aimed at increasing customer retention, encouraging repeat business and driving up revenue. The pandemic and recession have also driven a much greater emphasis on cost savings.

Which begs a few of the following questions weighing heavily on our 2022 ICT Strategies;

  • Are we duplicating costs by supporting disparate technologies and collaboration tools?
  • Public, Private, or Hybrid, which Cloud strategy is right for my organisation?
  • Is your mobile data scalable, depending on the size of your workforce?
  • What are the success criteria for a business’s digital transformation?
  • Is our distributed workforce functioning efficiently and securely?
  • Is our cloud strategy actually helping to reduce IT costs?
  • Are real-time failover, application control, and network insight important?
  • As technology evolves exponentially each year, does our business have the right innovative IT strategy?

Year-on-year growth in cybersecurity, cloud migration and cost savings means choosing a provider that can not only navigate the challenges, but also advise on the priorities will be essential.

An overall increase in the following areas year-on-year:

    • Digital transformation
      • 2021 – 56%
      • 2020 – 54%
    • Cyber Security
      • 2021 – 56%
      • 2020 – 49%
    • Cloud Migration
      • 2021 – 48%
      • 2020 – 40%
    • Cost Savings
      • 2021 – 27%
      • 2020 – 9%

Most importantly, they need to ask if their providers understand rapidly changing security demands, digitalisation needs, hybrid and distributed workforce requirements and challenges and what the future of cloud adoption looks like.

Are they listening, planning, implementing, investigating, and investing, or just nodding their heads.

Because small tech means business – and we aren’t just nodding our heads.

If you are looking for a technology partner that understands the changing landscape, and can match your business needs, contact us today.

About Saicom

Saicom is a leading service provider in the Telecommunications market, delivering a host of communication solutions that are designed to help organisations improve their collaboration and deliver an unsurpassed customer experience. Beyond it’s unified communications, voice and connectivity solutions, Saicom provides SD-WAN, APN, UCaaS and cloud hosting solutions tailored to meet each customers’ needs.

David Cooke, Sales and Marketing Director at Saicom


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