Business VoIP Phone service update

A recent FCC change is bringing about an end to our phone services. I built ComputAssist Business VoIP to provide premium phone service to my customers. However, an accelerated FCC requirement makes it unprofitable to continue.

FCC added requirements

The FCC’s initiative to prevent robo-calling is called STIR/SHAKEN (Secure Telephony Identity Revisited / Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs.) Compliance with STIR/SHAKEN is now required of all service providers.

This system works by adding information to a call as to the origin and CALLER ID, with different levels of confidence in the validity of the CALLER ID. This is called attestation. An “A” attestation is the best, meaning the system recognizes the number as being a customer, and the CALLER ID as being a number legitimately owned by the system. A “B” or “C” increases the probability of a call being flagged as spam.

If you would like to find out what your own phone number’s attestation level is, you can call a free verification service provided by Clearly IP at 920-666-1392. Your Caller ID, attestation level A, B or C, and what carrier signed your call will be read back to you.

My upstream provider, Telnyx, was able to originate the call and attest to the validity of a call’s CALLER ID, and as a top-tier VoIP provider they have had that capability since the early testing days. Then the FCC issued an update to their requirements, accelerating the timeframe for small VoIP providers to provide their own STIR/SHAKEN attestation. Apparently the majority of robo-calls originate with small providers.

So while the existing system logically and functionally works well, the FCC says that Telnyx cannot attest ComputAssist calls, and my system must do its own attestations.

Costly compliance

To add STIR/SHAKEN to my service is cost prohibitive. The digital signing token, the certificate needed to “sign” the calls and the additional infrastructure costs many thousands more per year than ComputAssist Business VoIP’s gross earnings.

In the final analysis, it no longer makes sense for ComputAssist to offer phone service.

Where to from here?

ComputAssist Business VoIP can be replaced with another provider that offers a similar feature set. The phones you have will continue to work in the same way. I will be happy to recommend and configure a replacement provider for you, or you can shop for the service yourself and use their support to DIY your phone system. One list of popular business phone service providers is this one at Capterra.

The end result should be phone service that compares to what you have today, at a price that is not far different from what you have been paying.

It has been my pleasure to provide you with phone service until now.

Windows 11: Do or Don’t?

Microsoft has announced that Windows 11 will be released next month. Windows 10 was declared to be “the last version of Windows”, nevertheless MS now has a new version number waiting in the wings.

Windows 11 is a free upgrade for people with a supported computer. However MS has excluded many slightly older but still-functional PCs from getting this upgrade. If your PC is less than two years old, it is likely able to receive the upgrade. But the requirements are quite specific. Ask me if you want to know if your PC will upgrade. The upgrade will be rolled out in stages over several months, so even if your PC is eligible it may not see the upgrade immediately.

What’s new?

The new features in 11 include a new Start Menu, new theme design, rounded corners, new icons, new sounds… It’s all Windows-dressing. Very few productivity-enhancing features are added, unless you count the ability to run Android apps, which is Microsoft’s way of adding features by leveraging another ecosystem entirely. And some useful features are taken away, like opening the task manager from the taskbar context menu (which has been obliterated) or moving the taskbar from the bottom of the display to one side, a very sensible choice on wide-screen monitors.

The 11th version of Windows has the feel of an upgrade for the sake of upgrades. You won’t miss out on any important or useful functionality if you choose to stay on 10 for a while. With the lack of real advancements, and the hardware restrictions, this could as easily just be the next feature upgrade of Windows 10. It’s hard to understand Microsoft’s rationale for a new version number other than as a bid to get some press and stay relevant.

Your options

Some with unsupported computers see the strict hardware requirements as a simple way to avoid the upgrade entirely, and stay on Windows 10. Windows 10 will be supported until mid-October 2025, so this is not necessarily a bad choice. You could get a few more years of use out of your existing PC and then get Windows 11 pre-installed on your new PC in 2025. (Don’t take this too far however, as an old PC will cost you money as well through lost productivity. If your PC is more than four years old, you should consider that a new business PC can pay for itself in as little as a year, not to mention improving your daily life with a more responsive system.)

Others see this upgrade as the right time to finally make the switch away from Microsoft altogether. There are businesses (including my own) that run only Linux or Mac OS. It’s a different world, with a different set of pros and cons, but some find it a more predictable and stable environment in which to work.

So, 10 or 11 or switch? I will be happy to discuss the ramifications of each choice with you, to help you make the best decision for your team. Just reply here!

Diagnosing Email: How to forward message headers

This is actually an article from my old site. But it is useful to point here when customers need me to analyze suspicious email messages.

When email goes wrong, one of the things your IT support may ask for is a copy of the full message headers. Headers are the audit trail of how the message was processed and the path it took to get from the sender to your inbox. Normally you don’t see most headers. The ones you do see are To:, From: and Date:, but there are many others contained in most email messages. Your IT support can use these headers to diagnose how the message was handled along the way.

Different mail clients handle forwarding headers in different ways. Here’s how to forward headers from some of the common client programs.

Outlook 2016

  1.  Start a new message.
  2. Select Attach Item from the toolbar.
  3. Select Outlook Item.
  4. Browse to the message you are inquiring about, and select it to attach it.
  5. Send the message.

Office 365 Outlook online

  1. Open the email message by double clicking it.
  2. Click on the ellipsis (the 3 dots) to the right of “Forward” to open a drop-down menu
  3. Click “View Message Details”.
  4. Select all the text (Click anywhere in the text and then press Ctrl-A) and copy it. 
  5. Close the header information window.
  6. Click on the forward icon of your message. 
  7. Paste the copied text at the beginning of the message. 
  8. Send the message.

New Business Phone Service

ComputAssist has launched a new service to help small businesses. Let me tell you about ComputAssist Business VoIP phone service.

It grew out of this pandemic we are in. As small businesses came under tremendous pressure from lost opportunities, I wondered how I could help them survive, and even stand out. With remote work and fewer people wearing more hats, flexible and fast communication seemed like a good place to start. A remarkably quick response can be the difference-maker that helps you get the attention of a potential customer.

So I built ComputAssist Business VoIP, using leading-edge phone technology that can work the way you need to work. When you can receive calls and voicemails on any device, anywhere you are, it changes how you think about business phone service. It’s not just a desk phone anymore! With VoIP you can use a desk phone, sure, and many still prefer it. But you can also use a software phone on your laptop or desktop computer, or an app on your tablet or smartphone. Receive calls wherever you are, just as if you were in the office!

Has your office outgrown its old phone system? Are you looking for more powerful features? Is cost a driver for you? How are you currently using your phone system? Is voicemail a big part of it, or do you handle most calls on demand? Do you have a mobile or remote work force?

Look into Business VoIP phone service from ComputAssist, then let’s talk about what you need to survive and thrive in the pandemic, and definitely beyond!