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Admin May 28, 2024 No Comments

Audio Conferencing Solutions For MSPs

Audio conferencing is an oft-overlooked part of unified communications, often because it’s associated with telephone calls. But it’s a crucial aspect of everyday communication — an audio conference is useful when you’re in a car or in another place where you don’t want or can’t have a video stream. So let’s take a look at audio conferencing, how it works in a modern business environment and how businesses can more effectively use it.


The Fundamentals of Audio Conferencing

From a technology point of view, audio conferencing is not that dissimilar from videoconferencing — both have an audio stream that is passed from person to person, usually via some sort of server, but the videoconference simply layers a video stream on top of that.

Within the Wildix system, the user activates a Collaboration call via the user interface or through a phone. This sends out a signal from the user to the target number, usually via a server. Information is passed from the user to the target and vice versa to establish the connection, such as the sender’s username, the target number (DID) and a description of each of the two local ends of the connection.

That’s enough to establish a ringtone, but it’s not enough to send over media, including an audio conference. The two systems must now negotiate to create an actual connection by exchanging ICE candidates. These are descriptions of how the sender can communicate with the target. Each description is tried against the target’s system until one works or until they all fail. In the event that one works, ICE descriptions may continue to be exchanged in case one is a better fit, even though the audio call will already have started.

Once the ICE candidates have been exchanged, the media starts flowing, and you can have your call. Ideally, all data should be encrypted, even for an audio call. This is the same for a web audio conference as it is for phone-based audio conferencing solutions.


Key components of audio conferencing systems

For most audio conferencing systems, you either need a phone or a web browser. Many audio web conferencing systems also have an audio conferencing app that allows you to use your mobile phone to call via a dedicated business line.

In addition, you will also need to have a DID assigned to you if you want to access SIP trunking services to contact those with conventional phone numbers. Some settings can also make use of headsets, notably call centers. Headsets are one of the more efficient ways to communicate and collaborate through your audio conference system as they can isolate sound more effectively in noisy environments.


Quick overview of audio conferencing software and hardware

Dozens of audio conferencing software solutions exist, usually as part of a wider unified communications package. In most cases, the same platform that provides audio conferencing can also handle text and video — any platform that does not generally is considered obsolete.

Quick overview of audio conferencing software and hardware
Dozens of audio conferencing software solutions exist, usually as part of a wider unified communications package. In most cases, the same platform that provides audio conferencing can also handle text and video — any platform that does not generally is considered obsolete.

However, there are often different licensing levels. For example, within Wildix, you have:

  • Basic: Connects to the PBX for a basic dial tone service (e.g. phones).
  • Essential: Adds in one-to-one text, video and audio connectivity via your web browser, with presence.
  • Business: Incorporates conferencing to multiple peers, PBX connections to your website via Kite and integrations.
  • Premium: Adds in management functions such as analytics, voicemail transcription and a full contact center management interface.

All of these include basic audio functionality, of course, but for the first one, you need a separate device such as a phone.

Not all licenses are set up simply like Wildix licenses, however. Most companies have a much more complex system of licensing: Avaya — just for its IP Office System — has 20 separate licenses. Then for its IP Office solution (no “System” in this one), you can choose from another 29 different licenses. Call Reporting has another 13 licenses, and Avaya Application licenses add another five.

That seems unnecessarily complex to us. And while the argument is that they can drill down into precise needs, you can also make the counterargument that everything becomes a pricepoint encouraging resistance when it’s not included as standard.

As for your audio conference system hardware, all you really need is a headset/headphones and a computer or a telephone.

The Advantages of Audio Conferencing

With modern internet speeds and hardware, there’s often little difference between an audio conference and a videoconference. Until you start adding people.

  • Audioconferencing takes about 50 kbps per participant.
  • Videoconferencing takes around 600 kbps per participant.

That means, a call with 10 people with audio takes around 0.5 Mbps. The same call with the video would take 6 Mbps. These don’t differ substantially between different audio conferencing solutions.

For a modern internet connection, the data use from videoconferencing should be tolerable, but start imagining if numerous people are doing the same thing. If you have 20 people within your organization, you could quickly hit your bandwidth cap with videoconferencing. This means your web audio conference could run a lot more smoothly.

Even worse is if you’re at a cafe, remote working. Those working in a public environment often find that videoconferencing is slow and jittery due to the amount of data being sent at once. Most public Wi‑Fi systems are not set up for sending large files, videos and updates from numerous users.

So online audio conferencing is often much more effective than videoconferencing, especially when scaling is affected by bandwidth concerns.


Minimizing distractions

The other big advantage of an audio conference is that distractions are minimized, especially in public. Like a standard telephone call, there’s no one moving in the background, unexpected feline, canine and child distractions are eliminated, and the other people on the line are not on view.

This can be a big advantage for privacy, especially when discretion is required.

The other advantage of videoconferencing is that it is essentially the same (for most purposes) as a telephone call. If your solution has a mobile application, you can take an audio conference call just like a standard call. This means you can treat your work communication app (like x‑bees or Collaboration) as an extension of your personal phone (switching off the app when you don’t want to be disturbed).

And much more importantly, you still get presence, phonebook and integrations, along with all the other information you need, from that app. If it’s set up properly, of course. It’s like a separate business phone without the need to carry a second phone.

And with the right app, if you want to videoconference, you can, as well!


Innovations and Trends in Audio Conferencing

Most of the trends and innovations that affect online audio conferencing affect videoconferencing as well. There have been substantial efforts in this area to ensure that systems are fit for purpose in the third decade of the 21st century.


Security Is even more important

As we discussed in our blog post on MSSPs, more and more companies are realizing that security is not optional. Insurance companies no longer accept that ransomware, DDoS, and other malicious attacks are inevitable and insist that companies apply security features to their systems and have a viable security plan.

As a result, an online audio conference solution that doesn’t include MFA (or 2FA) is largely irrelevant.

But there are other aspects to security than MFA. Basic encryption services from cradle to grave for all data (not just calls), monitoring via a dedicated monitoring solution and even remote monitoring of unusual activity from your vendor are absolutely essential to keeping your client’s systems secure.

And security will have to get even tougher for any web audio conference on the market. It should never solely be up to MSPs to harden solutions against cyberattacks — once you start adding on more and more cybersecurity products to do so, it’s easier to simply have one that’s secure by design!


AI is everywhere

Pretty much any article about innovation and online audio conferencing will include AI — it’s everywhere. An online audio conference solution (or a phone-based one) will generally find that an AI tool or two is vital to getting the job done effectively.

If you can link up AI analysis to your audio conferencing app, for example, you could see how calls are being received by customers through sentiment analysis, check out transcripts and even get live voicemail transcripts. This is all achieved through AI, and it’s definitely a major shift in how much more you can get done.

Eventually, you’ll be able to bulk analyze transcripts and calls through AI, as well as check out any fundamental similarities between successful calls and unsuccessful ones, without listening to every single one. This can enable easier training.

But then there are also even more important automated systems on the horizon. Instead of having individual trainers for a call center, your audio web solution could have an AI coach that can nudge individuals toward more effective call practices. Or if there’s a question that needs answering, you could simply ask the question of the coach or type in the question. It then can pick up contextual clues from your call and answer the question more effectively.

The more data an AI assistant has, the better it can assist you.

There is a huge range of technologies available (provided there’s enough processing power in the world!), and there are numerous AI solutions coming out to make callers much more effective during audio conferencing.

Choosing the Right Audio Conferencing Solution

It’s no longer enough to simply choose an audio conferencing solution for most people. Instead, businesses need a comprehensive solution that delivers audio, text and video to handle a variety of needs — especially if they have to reach out to clients and customers. Video is seen as a more personal means of outreach than an audio call, which is more personal than an email or a text message.

So any audio conferencing solution has to include a variety of other options.

Businesses looking for them should consider audio quality, video quality, how secure the system is and whether it integrates easily into their existing software. They should also consider AI applications — both current and in the vendor’s roadmap — and how they could help improve their business.

Ultimately, any solution that offers audio conferencing must provide some sort of return on investment.

Common problems facing audio conferencing

However, the top problems facing online audio conference solutions include connectivity issues, audio quality and user interface problems.

Connectivity: Typically, conductivity problems either occur at the end user stage, which indicates a problem with the stability of the Internet connection, or they occur due to a server issue. However, mitigation means including a jitter buffer within the solution — essentially a short delay that’s created whenever small amounts of lag happen — but there’s only so much any solution can do with a poor Internet connection. Fortunately, audio web solutions are usually very low bandwidth, as discussed above, so you can do a lot even with mediocre connectivity.

Audio quality: There are two big causes of poor audio quality: user-based and solution-based. User-based audio quality is dependent on the quality of the hardware used and the amount of background noise in the office or area in which the user is working. Many audio solutions provide some sort of sound suppression, although they often are not perfect.

Solution-based audio quality encompasses sound suppression, but it’s usually heavily dependent on the codecs and amount of bandwidth they assign to the call. In some cases, server issues can also affect audio quality.

User interface: A user interface that is too complex can hinder the uptake of any solution, not just an audio conferencing one. It should be easy and relatively intuitive to make a simple call on any audio web conferencing software.

MSPs Need Reliable Audio Conferencing Solutions

Overall, MSPs need audio conferencing products that work for them and their end-users. They need to have good audio quality, a reliable user interface and solid connectivity, preferably via reputable servers, such as AWS. In addition, good security through a secure-by-design approach and the ability to add AI through open APIs and built-in AI integrations are also crucial.

If all of this can be combined with a great partner program, then you’ve likely found the audio conferencing solution that you need.

This post was originally published on 

The author is STUART BROWN.



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