Streaming MOH For Asterisk: New Custom Streams Available

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Asterisk VOIPThe move to VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) for business phones has increased the number of ways phone systems play music on hold (MOH). While currently most hosted VOIP providers play an uploaded audio file as the hold queue audio, new options are opening up for Asterisk-based hosted VOIP systems. Easy On Hold has developed a groundbreaking solution that will provide Asterisk users an opportunity for more robust marketing on hold programming.


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Programming Needs in The MOH Environment

For some companies, the presence of hold music is a mere placeholder; a way to indicate to the caller that they have not dropped the call. Others opt for information on hold as a way of better holding the attention and interest of the caller. Marketing-savvy businesses take the MOH concept a step further, using on hold messaging as a marketing tool to deliver timely call-to-action messages to a captive audience. Such marketing on hold messages have proven to be effective, often prompting a caller to inquire further about something they heard while waiting.

Challenges Of Off-Site VOIP

Producers of phone on hold messages, such as Easy On Hold, have traditionally provided an audio player (external MOH device) that feeds a continuous sound signal into a PBX. VOIP phone systems that are hosted on-site still often provide a sound card input to allow use of an external MOH player. Hosted VOIP phone systems, on the other hand, are “virtual” or entirely “in the cloud”. Since there is no entrance point for an external MOH player in a virtual environment, a single, self-contained audio file has been the norm for MOH playback. Often, these uploaded MOH files play from the start of the file each time the hold button is depressed. This architecture limits the variety of information businesses can convey during customer on-hold time. Further complicating the process is that a qualified administrator is often required to manage on hold audio files.

Hosted VOIP Market Growing

As of the date of this writing, Vonage had just completed their purchase of Vocalocity, one of the fastest growing providers in the SMB hosted VoIP market. A Vonage news release stated:

During the first half of 2013, Vocalocity had revenue of $28 million and growing, implying an annual run rate of greater than $56 million. First half 2013 revenues were 39% higher than the same period in the prior year.

Michael Storella, COO at snomTechnology Inc., the German manuafacturer of IP phones, recently stated that the demand for hosted and cloud-based VoIP systems is also growing, especially among in the small to medium business (SMB) market sector.

One reason VOIP is growing may be that it requires less hardware, which means less energy use. It also offers workers the opportunity to telecommute easily, as noted in a recent Infonetics VoIP and UC Services and Subscribers report.

MOH Industry Response to Hosted VOIP

As an increasing number of businesses opt for off-site or virtual phone systems, the music on hold industry has been slow to respond. On hold equipment providers continue to offer devices that connect via on-site audio inputs, while production companies have been content to offer audio files for upload. The result: hosted VOIP end-users are missing out on the marketing potential of timely messages on hold. Easy On Hold clients using Asterisk-based systems, however, now have access to a full range of hold messaging features via a never-before offered solution.

Streaming MOH For Asterisk

The Asterisk phone system is an open-source software solution that is very popular among I.T. providers such as internet technology integrators. The Asterisk website says:

Asterisk is an open source framework for building communications applications. Asterisk turns an ordinary computer into a communications server. Asterisk powers IP PBX systems, VoIP gateways, conference servers and other custom solutions.

Many Asterisk phone systems are being set up to play a single audio file on hold, but all have vast programming capabilities, including the ability to use an http stream (streaming URL feed) for music on hold.

A New Solution: Custom MOH Streams

Easy On Hold V.P. Tim Brown says his technical team has developed a music and message on hold solution that automatically changes content based on a planned schedule, rotates content to provide a unique caller experience, and makes changing and updating content easy—without the aid of equipment or technicians.

We devised a unique programming technique that encodes playback instructions into each of a series of custom-scripted topical announcements. Then we set a sequence of rules to manage message repetition and customer preferences. A weighting system controls message frequency, so the most important announcements play more often.

 

Examples of the programming in action might be:

  • A restaurant has lunch specials that callers hear about in the morning, and dinner specials in the afternoon.
  • A credit union with a limited-time interest rate that gets more “ear time” than other announcements in the rotation.
  • An automobile dealer promotes weekend hours to callers on Friday.
  • A doctor’s office that uses “good morning” and “good afternoon” phrases to make patients feel welcome.

Modifications to the message rotation are easily and quickly made, with the results being heard immediately.

“Since it is a live stream, customers never have to wait for changes to kick in. There’s no media to handle, no file to transfer. Streams can be monitored live via the customer portal at easyonhold.com,” Brown said.

Techs Respond To Easy On Hold Streaming Option

A call center manager who switched to streaming MOH from Easy On Hold recently remarked at how simple the set up was. The 128k .mp3 stream is a light load on bandwidth, which is already busy streaming video, Pandora personal internet radio, overhead music or other content at many businesses.

IP telephony techs from New York to Honolulu participated in the streaming service rollout, quickly arriving at the same conclusion: The stream is a piece of cake.

Mack Hendricks, Asterisk Support Manager at dOpenSource says,

I like the way the streaming solution is solving the MOH problem.  This year we are focused on partnering with companies that provide complimentary services and Easy On Hold looks like it fits the bill.  80% of our business consists of supporting Asterisk based systems.  So, we can definitely promote the product to our customers.

Specifics About How Streaming Music On Hold Works

Here are some specifics about how Streaming MOH improves the on hold experience for callers on hosted VOIP systems such as Asterisk:

  • Audio content is organized into specific topics businesses want callers to hear. Each topic is treated as an individual “spot”. Typically, a company will have between 6 and 10 topics or paragraphs playing at any time.
  • A variety of music backgrounds (30 seconds and 60 seconds) are used. It’s a welcome departure from the old “voice-over-4-minute-music-track” approach.
  • A topic can be quickly deleted, paused or added to the rotation without disturbing other content.
  • Since the stream is live, all changes are noticed immediately.
  • The frequency, days of the week and times of the day can all be programmed into each 30 to 60-second announcement. Callers are likely to have a fresh, unique listening experience with each call.
  • Each spot can be assigned a priority rating, allowing select messages to play with greater frequency than others in the live group.
  • All content is legal and licensed through our agreement with BMG Music, a publisher in the music business for 178 years.
  • Additional custom streams can be added in a matter of minutes, for extra locations, various company departments or extensions, etc.

 

 

 

Easy On Hold, http://www.easyonhold.com, created in 1997, provides professional telephone recordings, music and on hold message productions, auto attendant, IVR, voice mail greetings, and web audio to companies around the world.

Easy On Hold Named OnSIP Music On Hold Channel Partner

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Easy On Hold and OnSIPEasy On Hold has been named exclusive custom music and message on hold channel partner by OnSIP, a leading provider of business VoIP services to businesses.

Easy On Hold developed the technology to stream custom announcements for the OnSIP platform. The OnSIP music on hold solution delivers multiple 30- and 60-second promotional spots, mixed with music, to inform and educate callers, while adding to branding and sales efforts.

“It’s like designing your own custom message and music on hold channel,” says Easy On Hold President Julie Cook. “Now you can have a robust phone system and an on hold marketing program all in one solution.”

As a channel partner, Easy On Hold will provide exceptional service to OnSIP users in search of custom message on hold programming. OnSIP users will receive a custom URL (web address) to use as the source for Enhanced Music On Hold. Easy On Hold has 16 years of experience providing businesses with properly licensed music, custom scripting and voice talent. Customer admin tools to help businesses use telephone on hold time to improve customer relations and company image.

A video has been released to inform OnSIP users of the availability of the new streaming music on hold service.

Unique New Service: Custom OnSIP Music On Hold Streams

No other professional messages on hold production company has offered multiple streaming music and message on hold delivery until now. Easy On Hold has truly added a new category to the message on hold marketplace.

Easy On Hold V.P. Tim Brown, who led the development and testing phases of the new service says, “OnSIP users have only a live streaming URL as an option for music and messages on hold. Our system can generate a unique customer streaming channel instantly, and populate it with content delivered live.”

Since its inception in the fall of 2013, the Easy On Hold streaming music on hold system has streamed over 1.1 million audio files. “Bandwidth is no longer an issue in today’s business environment and serving streams is quite commonplace,” Brown commented.

Advanced Scheduling

With advanced scheduling features, the Easy On Hold streaming solution delivers timely content to callers on hold based on the day and time of day. “Announcements can be focused on a call-to-action for greater impact, then stop playing automatically,” explained Julie Cook.

Since callers hear the stream live, content changes can take place immediately. No audio files or equipment needs to be handled in order to change content. Features include:

  • Content can change automatically, based on a schedule of your choosing.
  • Spanish, French and other languages and translations are available.
  • Multiple streams can be applied to various users on an OnSIP account.
  • New message productions are created in 3 business days or less.

OnSIP

Hosted PBX is continuing to grow as an affordable, flexible solution for small and medium-sized businesses, and the OnSIP platform is built to be user-friendly and robust. Many businesses are switching from on-site PBX phone systems to hosted PBX from OnSIP to reduce costs while taking advantages of a wide range of solutions previously unavailable from their on-site PBX.

Companies with tele-workers or employees who travel will find OnSIP a seamless solution. Phones can be deployed and moved anywhere that a high-speed Internet connection is available. Companies experiencing rapid growth are able to easily add users to the system, each with customized feature sets, including automated attendant, integration of Android devices, iPhone and third-party applications, free on-network calling, video conferencing and much more.

OnSIP was created by Junction Networks, founded in 2004 and delivers communications services to over 22,000 small, medium, and large businesses.

Free Trial Offer Available

Taking a cue from OnSIP, which offers a free 30-day trial of its services, Easy On Hold is also offering customers a 30-day trial of the new OnSIP streaming MOH service.

 

Easy On Hold is not responsible for the performance, installation or operation of equipment we do not sell. Articles about equipment are for educational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement of any make or brand. Easy On Hold makes no claims or warranties regarding telephone equipment of any kind.

Custom Music On Hold Stream For Asterisk And OnSip

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The move to VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) for business phones has increased the number of ways phone systems play music on hold (MOH). While currently most hosted VOIP providers play an uploaded audio file as the hold queue audio, new options are opening up for Asterisk-based and OnSIP hosted VOIP systems. Easy On Hold has developed a groundbreaking solution that will provide Asterisk and OnSIP users an opportunity for more robust marketing on hold programming.

Programming Needs in The MOH Environment

For some companies, the presence of hold music is a mere placeholder; a way to indicate to the caller that they have not dropped the call. Others opt for information on hold as a way of better holding the attention and interest of the caller. Marketing-savvy businesses take the MOH concept a step further, using on hold messaging as a marketing tool to deliver timely call-to-action messages to a captive audience. Such marketing on hold messages have proven to be effective, often prompting a caller to inquire further about something they heard while waiting.

Challenges Of Off-Site VOIP 

Producers of phone on hold messages, such as Easy On Hold, have traditionally provided an audio player (external MOH device) that feeds a continuous sound signal into a PBX. VOIP phone systems that are hosted on-site still often provide a sound card input to allow use of an external MOH player. Hosted VOIP phone systems, on the other hand, are “virtual” or entirely “in the cloud”. This is also referred to as hosted or IP telephony. Since there is no entrance point for an external MOH player in a virtual environment, a single, self-contained audio file has been the norm for MOH playback. Often, these uploaded MOH files play from the start of the file each time the hold button is depressed. This architecture limits the variety of information businesses can convey during customer on-hold time. Further complicating the process is that a qualified administrator is often required to manage on hold audio files.

Hosted VOIP Market Growing

As of the date of this writing, Vonage had just completed their purchase of Vocalocity, one of the fastest growing providers in the SMB hosted VoIP market. A Vonage news release stated:

During the first half of 2013, Vocalocity had revenue of $28 million and growing, implying an annual run rate of greater than $56 million. First half 2013 revenues were 39% higher than the same period in the prior year.

Michael Storella, COO at snomTechnology Inc., the German manuafacturer of IP phones, recently stated that the demand for hosted and cloud-based VoIP systems is also growing, especially among in the small to medium business (SMB) market sector.

One reason VOIP is growing may be that it requires less hardware, which means less energy use. It also offers workers the opportunity to telecommute easily, as noted in a recent Infonetics VoIP and UC Services and Subscribers report.

MOH Industry Response to Hosted VOIP

As an increasing number of businesses opt for off-site or virtual phone systems, the music on hold industry has been slow to respond. On hold equipment providers continue to offer devices that connect via  on-site audio inputs, while production companies have been content to offer audio files for upload. The result: hosted VOIP end-users are missing out on the marketing potential of timely messages on hold. Easy On Hold clients using OnSIP or Asterisk-based systems, however, now have access to a full range of hold messaging features via a never-before offered solution.

The Streaming Solution

OnSip

One of the hosted business phone solutions growing in popularity is OnSIP, operated by Junction Networks, based in New York City. The OnSIP hosted VOIP service allows customers to choose from a selection of music streams, such as Elevator, Jazz, and the like. Customized phone on hold messages can be introduced via http stream as part of an “enhanced MOH” plan.

 

asterisk_logo

The Asterisk phone system is an open-source software solution that is very popular among I.T. providers such as internet technology integrators. The Asterisk website says:

Asterisk is an open source framework for building communications applications. Asterisk turns an ordinary computer into a communications server. Asterisk powers IP PBX systems, VoIP gateways, conference servers and other custom solutions.

Asterisk is the software foundation for Digitium Switchvox phone systems, among others.  Many Asterisk phone systems are being set up to play a single audio file on hold, but all have vast programming capabilities, including the ability to use an http stream (streaming URL feed) for music on hold.

Custom Music On Hold Stream For Asterisk And OnSIP

Easy On Hold V.P. Tim Brown says his technical team has developed a music and message on hold solution that automatically changes content based on a planned schedule, rotates content to provide a unique caller experience, and makes changing and updating content easy—without the aid of equipment or technicians.

“We devised a unique programming technique that encodes playback instructions into each of a series of custom-scripted topical announcements. Then we set a series of rules to manage message repetition and customer preferences. A weighting system controls message frequency, so the most important announcements play more often,” said Brown.

The new system creates an ideal custom music on hold stream for Asterisk and OnSIP users. Examples of the programming in action might be:

  • A restaurant has lunch specials that callers hear about in the morning, and dinner specials in the afternoon.
  • A credit union with a limited-time interest rate that gets more “ear time” than other announcements in the rotation.
  • An automobile dealer promotes weekend hours to callers on Friday.
  • A doctor’s office that uses “good morning” and “good afternoon” phrases to make patients feel welcome.

Modifications to the message rotation are easily and quickly made, with the results being heard immediately.

“Since it is a live stream, customers never have to wait for changes to kick in. There’s no media to handle, no file to transfer. Streams can be monitored live via the customer portal at easyonhold.com,” Brown said.

Techs Respond To Easy On Hold Streaming Option

A call center manager who switched to streaming MOH from Easy On Hold recently remarked at how simple the set up was. The 128k .mp3 stream is a light load on bandwidth, which is already busy streaming video, Pandora personal internet radio, overhead music or other content at many businesses.

IP telephony techs from New York to Honolulu participated in the streaming service rollout, quickly arriving at the same conclusion: The stream is a piece of cake.

Specifics About How Streaming Music On Hold Works

Here are some specifics about how Streaming MOH improves the on hold experience for callers on hosted VOIP systems such as OnSip and Asterisk:

  • Audio content is organized into specific topics businesses want callers to hear. Each topic is treated as an individual “spot”. Typically, a company will have between 6 and 10 topics or paragraphs playing at any time.
  • A variety of music backgrounds (30 seconds and 60 seconds) are used. It’s a welcome departure from the old “voice-over-4-minute-music-track” approach.
  • A topic can be quickly deleted, paused or added to the rotation without disturbing other content.
  • Since the stream is live, all changes are noticed immediately.
  • The frequency, days of the week and times of the day can all be programmed into each 30 to 60-second announcement. Callers are likely to have a fresh, unique listening experience with each call.
  • Each spot can be assigned a priority rating, allowing select messages to play with greater frequency than others in the live group.
  • All content is legal and licensed through our agreement with BMG Music, a publisher in the music business for 178 years.
  • Additional custom streams can be added in a matter of minutes, for extra locations, various company departments or extensions, etc.

Other Options For Custom MOH Streams

Businesses not using OnSip or Asterisk systems can also benefit from Easy On Hold’s streaming on demand messages on hold. Easy On Hold provides access to an internet radio receiver for businesses requiring an on-site device.

Hosted VOIP Update: OnSip Music On Hold

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OnSipIf you own or operate a business, sooner or later you will deal with a telephone system upgrade. Whether to take advantage of better pricing and features, or because you’ve outgrown your current phone system, changes in the business telephone market will soon be very relevant to you. Business phone systems have been dramatically changing, and the trend is to VOIP: Voice Over Internet Protocol.

“As the seasons change, so does the best strategy for business telephony. Traditional phone lines formerly had some advantages over VoIP in features and voice quality, but advancements in technology have finally crowned VoIP as the ultimate victor.”—Matt Paulson, Editor of Voip-Catalog.com.

OnSIP, SIP, VOIP – Breaking It Down

This month VOIP-Catalog.com revealed its choices for the Top 5 VOIP Providers. They include OnSIP, a flexible business phone solution used by some of our Easy On Hold customers.

The “SIP” in OnSIP refers to “session initiation protocol”, a type of connectivity that controls the communications sessions that are the basis of VoIP telephony. Sip also provides a platform for instant messaging, multimedia, conferencing, and other communications services.

About OnSIP Features

OnSIP provides a quick “out of thin air” phone system that requires only a SIP-enabled telephone at the user’s office (I chose the Polycom VVX300) and an internet connection of course. With a call to my network tech to make sure I had the correct router settings, and a few minutes on the Polycom Phone web interface, I was able to make and receive calls using a basic OnSIP account.

OnSIP makes it easy to add lines, users and features, which brings us to our discussion of messaging on hold for OnSIP phone systems. Among the features:

  • Voicemail Box (& VM to Email)
  • Advanced Call Handling
  • Auto Attendant
  • Unlimited Extensions
  • Business Hours Routing
  • Ring Groups
  • Unified Communications Web App
  • Call Parking
  • Dial by Name Directory
  • Outlook & Browser Click-to-Call Plugins
  • Video Calling
  • Enhanced Music on Hold
  • Mobile Extensions

 

OnSIP Music On Hold – Generic Option

There is free “default” music that comes with the OnSIP service. You may choose from Classical, Jazz, or my favorite, Elevator (see photo).onsip-music-on-hold

 

 

The music sounds fine, and the technology of HD audio over VOIP has improved the quality of the on-hold music to the ear. There’s no announcement or information to help your callers learn about you (no marketing is going on at this point). We have had OnSIP customers reach out to Easy On Hold to request custom announcements, which have been shown to keep callers on the line longer, improve sales and build a stronger business image.

Video Shows Basic OnSIP MOH Set-up

Each user on an OnSIP account can customize his or her own music on hold options. Check out this video for a complete music on hold walk-through.

 

OnSIP MOH – Custom On Hold Messaging

At this point, Easy On Hold can provide custom music on hold messages to be used on OnSIP, something that was until now a very inconvenient alternative. Contact us for details.

With a few simple settings, your on hold content will be transformed into your own branded radio station. A well-known statistic is that 85% of business callers prefer relevant information while holding, as opposed to just plain music.

The Future Of Business Phones

IT Business Edge reported last month that Chris Thorson, the director of marketing for Polycom, said that cloud-based VoIP — also called hosted VoIP — has a year-over-year growth rate of almost 30 percent. Chances are you’re going to be looking at VOIP soon.

Resources – VOIP For Business

YouTube Blogger Eli The Computer Guy talks about the future of telephone and OnSIP in particular in this presentation. Eli-the-computer-guyEli describes, year-by-year, the evolution of business phone service, from traditional phone lines with PBX phone systems to hosted VOIP (or cloud-based phone systems).  Eli explains that VOIP servers can do much more than a PBX phone system. You can have that server on-site, whereby you can likely plug in a music on hold device to provide caller on hold content. You also have the choice of using an off-site service, such as OnSIP. You’ll also learn about the  benefits of SIP over other types of VOIP service.

Easy On Hold is not responsible for the performance, installation or operation of equipment we do not sell. Articles about equipment are for educational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement of any make or brand. Easy On Hold makes no claims or warranties regarding telephone equipment of any kind.

 

 

 

Music On Hold For TDS Metrocom Managed IP Hosted Phone System

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TDS Metrocom IP Hosted VOIPWant to playcustomized music on hold or messages on hold on TDS Managed IP Hosted Phone System? Here are 3 important things you should know that your TDS Representative may not tell you:

First, the on hold audio is loaded as a file. You will need to know the parameters of the required file format and be able to produce an audio file in that format. Second, in order to play the audio file, you must log in to your TDS Hosted IP Phone System Control Panel yourself and upload the audio file. And third, watch out: the on hold audio file plays from the beginning each and every time you put someone on hold!

If you already have TDS Hosted IP Phones, this article will help you learn about how to get custom on hold audio files to play. If you have not decided on TDS yet, however, we recommend that you take a moment to review the pros and cons regarding the music on hold. We will tell you plainly: the on hold messaging on the TDS Managed IP Phones leaves much to be desired. You will not be able to have scheduled or automated message updates, will not be able to use an external MOH device and your callers will probably hear the same 20 to 30 seconds of content every time they are on hold, even if you have a 4-minute long custom message on hold.

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TDS Metrocom Managed IP Hosted Phone System MOH Files

TDS Metrocom, the seventh largest local exchange telephone company in the U.S., has been pushing its hosted (managed IP) business phone system for a few years now, touting the flexibility and economic advantages of using an off-site VOIP phone system. The music on hold message audio file can be professionally produced and uploaded to the system, if you know the correct audio file format.

Audio files come in many different schemes. Some you may have heard of include .mp3, .wav or .vox. There are within these formats specific characteristics that must further be defined in order for audio to work on certain phone systems.

TDS Support Has Little Information

We contacted TDS Support for specifics on which types of files work best for the messages on hold music audio files. TDS admits that they have little to no documentation available on the preferred music formats.

Audio File Types And Size

From our experience and research, we have determined:

  • The maximum file size should be no more that 4.6 MB
  • a-Law in 8kHz, 16-Bit
  • u-Law in 8kHz, 8-bit

Best Result

We have tried 8-Bit PCM, uLaw and aLaw files on our customers using the TDS hosted IP phone systems. The best result so far has been with a 16-Bit 8kHz aLaw file. There may be some pops and clicks and some light noise on the line, but this is the result of the way TDS has designed the on hold to work, and is out of everyone’s control.

Custom Messages On Hold Tips for TDS IP Hosted Phone On Hold Music

The audio file will start at the beginning each time a call is placed on hold. Keep this in mind when designing your custom on hold production. The caller may not hear content placed in the second, third or fourth paragraph. Keep each paragraph brief; about 5 seconds. Reduce the amount of space between each paragraph to around 10 seconds. Our experience and customers tell us that this is the best scenario for the TDS hosted IP setup.

Test Audio Files

Upload and test the audio on hold files you have Easy On Hold create for you. Work with your Easy On Hold representative if you want to try different volume settings and file formats to get the best sound quality for your system.

 Will Quality Improve In The Future?

Headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin, TDS Metrocom continues to position itself as a provider of more than internet service and long distance telephone. The music and messages on hold function of the TDS hosted IP service, however, is lacking in quality and flexibility. In a recent call to a TDS representative, I was told that TDS has no plans to change how they handle music on hold.

Alternatives

There are many, many alternatives to TDS Hosted IP. Alternatives that will provide the same or better services at the same or better prices. Shop around. Your provider does not need to have an office based in your home town. For example, a local I.T. provider may be a resller for OnSip, for example. Tip: Read article about OnSip here.

 

Easy On Hold is not responsible for the performance, installation or operation of equipment we do not sell. Articles about equipment are for educational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement of any make or brand. Easy On Hold makes no claims or warranties regarding telephone equipment of any kind.