Push2Call: A cloud telephony service to embed in Web sites

Gibbs discusses telephony in the cloud and a free service, Push2Call, that can enhance your Web site or social networking services.

No matter what aspect of IT you look at there seems to be a cloud play emerging, including telephony.

"Cloud telephony" is really another (and definitely sexier) name for what you might have once called "hosted" or "SaaS" (software as a service) telephony -- online services that remove the need to run your own in-house private branch exchange (PBX).

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There's a good argument for cloud telephony: Now that high speed Internet service is available for reasonable prices more-or-less everywhere, companies can get the benefits of no capital expenditure, no hardware, no upgrades, one less subsystem to support, implicit scalability and lots of features they couldn't afford with an in-house PBX.

Not only have the features offered been progressively expanded, pricing has dropped quickly, making cloud telephony desirable to large and small corporations, branch offices, SMBs and even SOHO operations.

InVox, a company that specializes in cloud telephony, has just released a free "live call" service called Push2Call that fronts cloud-based call routing for use in social networks, blogs and on Web sites.

Push2Call is currently in beta and does what its name implies: You click on a Web widget or link and you are offered a list of calling options. Callers can either use their computer (this is done through a Flash-based VoIP client), their landline to call an instantly generated local number in more than 40 countries with an extension that routes to you, or start a Skype call to you.

Push2Call can be presented in three ways: Using just a few lines of HTML and JavaScript in the <body></body> tags of a Web page it will display a neat and pleasantly discrete button that reads "Call Us"; or it can be deployed as a link on LinkedIn; or as a signature in Google Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or Microsoft Outlook. The service also provides you with weekly stats on all calls made through your Push2Call widgets and links.

The call destination for the widget or link can be a Skype number, a Google Talk account, an InVox account, a toll-free number, an SIP number, or a landline (the latter is currently free for up to 250 minutes of calls but will be charged for once beta has ended).

When the widget or link is clicked, a panel is opened and the various call options are displayed. This option display is the first of my two minor issues with the InVox Push2Call service: You can't restrict the calling options to, say, just Skype, or just Skype and a toll-free number; currently, you get all of the choices.

My second issue is that the widget isn't tied to a domain -- in other words, someone could grab the Push2Call code fragment and deploy it on another site or simply construct the service request that gets sent to InVox and send it from any Internet connected device. This could be a problem if it was used, for example, as part of a denial-of-service (DoS) attack. InVox tells me that these issues will be addressed before Push2Call comes out of beta.

InVox's Push2Call is definitely worth checking out as (if you'll forgive the pun) an extension to your social media presence or Web site. I'll give Push2Call a rating of 4.5 out of 5 ... and with a little polishing before it comes out of beta, I see a score of 5 in their future.

Gibbs is all about the polish in Ventura, Calif. Tell gearhead@gibbs.com what you find shiny.

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