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16 August 2012

PortaSwitch Maintenance Release 28 Has Become Available for All PortaCare Supported Customers

PortaSwitch Maintenance Release 28 is the next leap-forward release, consistent with the “fast releases, precisely on time” ideology introduced earlier this year. MR28 is actually released a few days ahead of the schedule! Beside the actual changes and improvements in functionality (see the most important ones listed below) there is an important change in the administration of the release information.

MR28 Highlights:

  • Full release information access
  • Geo-redundancy introduction
  • Easy-to-use access levels
  • Redesigned phone book
  • Invoice number sequences
  • External invoice templates
  • PrinceXML PDF generation
  • Custom modifications support
  • Prepaid IVR auto-registration
We strongly believe that being fully open with our customers is the only correct approach, for providing PortaOne customers with the most up-to-date information regarding the functionality introduced in the release and the problems fixed there. Therefore, starting from the zero build of MR28, PortaOne will provide all customers with access to the release information contained in our internal development and bug-tracking systems. Customers will be able to see all topics (tickets):
  • New features or enhancements of existing functionality introduced in this release
  • Defects found in earlier software releases now fixed in this release
  • Any known issues applicable to this release that will be fixed in future releases

Please access the release notes using the same username/password as you use for accessing PortaOne support ticketing system (RT).

Geographical Redundancy

The ultimate goal is to allow a service provider to have the servers installed at multiple locations (different data centers or even different cities), so even in case of a failure at the main site (e.g. power outage or simply a connectivity problem between the remote and main sites), the remote sites will continue to provide service in a stand-alone mode. When connectivity is restored, the databases are automatically synchronized (e.g. if customer used the service for $2 on the remote site while it was in the stand-alone mode, then his balance in the master database will be increased by $2 and xDRs will be created).

As a result, a service provider can operate a complex network and continue to provide service even in the case of a catastrophic event affecting parts of the network – with no manual intervention required.

A fully finished geo-redundancy solution will be available at the end of 2012. In the meantime, MR28 is a stepping stone towards it – containing many important changes in underlying product architecture and code. The most visible change is the new “site” entity in the configuration server. This allows the assignment of physical servers to the “main” site or to one of the remote sites.

Self-care Portal: Access Levels (ACLs)

A new self-care portal provides easy-to-use control of all aspects of user accounts (billing information, usage data, IP Centrex service configuration, etc.) yet in some cases it may be beneficial for the service provider to reduce the amount of data accessible by the end-user.

For instance, a company that does not offer fully hosted IP PBX service and thus does not allow end-users to manage their extensions and hunt-groups would prefer that end-users do not see these options at all. The same flexible model of ACLs (going as granular as controlling access to every individual field) that are available for the rest of the web interface can now be applied to the customer self-care portal by the administrators.

Phone Book Improvements

A redesigned phone book module provides several important improvements to the way this service can be offered to the end user, for both residential telephony and hosted IPPBX scenarios.

  • A phone book is now available for each account (phone line) so that each user can register his own contacts
  • The end-user may assign speed-dial to any entry in the phone book: global dials, available to all users of the same IP Centrex environment, are still available via Abbreviated Dials module
  • The “Phone book” and “Favorite numbers” modules have been integrated, so there is no need to enter and maintain “favorite” numbers separately. The administrator can flag any phone book entry as a “favorite” and calls to that number will be charged according to the special rate
  • To simplify the self-management of favorite numbers and reduce the amount of work done by the helpdesk, the administrator can “lock” portions of the phone book information (e.g. the actual phone number) while the end-user can still change other attributes
Customizable Invoice Number Sequences

When a reseller operates as a virtual operator on the PortaSwitch platform, invoices for his customers are generated on his behalf. In the case of multiple resellers operating on the same platform, it is now possible to assign individual invoice numbering sequences to each reseller so that the reseller’s invoice numbers are assigned in sequence (1, 2, 3, etc.). This simplifies the day-to-day operations of the reseller and satisfies the requirements of local tax authorities in certain countries.

External Invoice Templates

As an alternative to the WYSIWYG invoice layout designer (built into the system), we are testing another approach in which an invoice template can be designed as a TML/CSS file and then uploaded into the system. This simplifies the process if the invoice template is created by an external design agency (that does not have access to PortaBilling) and allows advanced template customizations (e.g. arrangement of data to exactly match “legacy” invoices or insertion of dynamic content such as banners) by third-party developers.

PrinceXML PDF Generation

Industry-leading PDF generation software PrinceXML is used to produce the actual PDF files. The license for PrinceXML will be provided as a part of an OEM agreement for all PortaOne customers who perform an update to MR28.

The MR28 contains a prototype module for this alternative PDF generation software and we invite our customers and their design agencies to jointly develop the functionality further.

Improved Support for Custom Modifications

A large group of PortaOne customers actively engage in the in-house customization and improvements to extend the platform. The configuration framework provides a reliable place to store these modifications and apply them automatically during the next system update, thus guaranteeing that the modifications will not be forgotten or lost. To make it easier to maintain fairly complex modifications in this fashion, the “custom patch” module on the configuration server now supports multiple files.

Effortless Auto-Registration for Prepaid Calling IVR

To simplify the process of using the prepaid PINless calling service, the prepaid calling application can be configured so that upon the first successful login with a prepaid card PIN, the caller number (CLI/ANI) is immediately registered on the system and associated with that PIN. Then when other calls are made, the caller will automatically be recognized.

This helps to provide better service for diverse multi-lingual communities (migrant workers is a good example of one), where end-users (who may not be fluent in any of the major languages in which the IVR operates) might become confused by additional CLI/ANI registration confirmation prompts.


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