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Aculab Cloud FAQs



Aculab

Who are Aculab?

For over 35 years, Aculab has been providing deployment-proven telecoms products to the global communication market. Based in Milton Keynes, UK, and with offices in the US and Germany, Aculab has taken all the knowledge and understanding of the telecoms market gained over those 35 years and ceated Aculab Cloud - a true cloud-based telecoms platform.

Why do we offer Aculab Cloud?

We aim to run a service that's:

  • easy to use for both web and non-web programmers;
  • reliable, maintained and monitored by us so you can focus on using it;
  • scalable;
  • got its own telco connectivity and allows you to use your own telcos;
  • pay as you go;
  • built on a sustainable business model - we're in it for the long term.


The basics

What is Aculab Cloud?

Aculab Cloud is a service that provides a powerful set of telephony resources in a cloud-based platform. It allows you to interact with your customers using regular phone calls and SMS messages. Through the use of simple, high-level language APIs, Aculab Cloud makes it easy for you to create telephony applications.

What can I do with Aculab Cloud?

You can write voice, fax and SMS applications which interact with phones.

See Features and Applications.


APIs

Should I write my applications for the REST API or UAS?

See Which API is Appropriate for Me?

What is the REST API?

The REST API is a simple API designed to make it very easy for web developers to write telephony applications for Aculab Cloud using Python, C#, VB, Java, PHP or any other scripting langugage. A REST API application is series of web pages that control how Aculab Cloud handles outbound and inbound calls. You host your application pages in a 3rd-party web server (e.g. IIS, Apache, Tomcat ...) or your own web server.

See REST API.

What is a UAS?

A User Application Server (UAS) is a process which runs on your own machine. You can develop voice and fax applications using high-level language APIs written in Python, C#, VB, F#, C++ and Java. These run within the UAS.

See User Application Server (UAS) API.

What is the Web Services (WS) API?

The Web Services (WS) API allows you to start Outbound Services, manage your files, purchase inbound telephone numbers, send SMS messages and more.

See Web Services.

What are Outbound and Inbound Services?

Outbound Services tell Aculab Cloud how to start REST or UAS applications to handle outbound telephone calls. When you start an Outbound Service, Aculab Cloud matches the name you provide to an Outbound Service Name.

Inbound Services tell Aculab Cloud how to handle incoming telephone calls and SMS messages. When Aculab Cloud receives a call or SMS message it matches the dialled number (SIP username) to an Inbound Service Name. For a call, the Service tells Aculab Cloud how to start a REST or UAS application to handle it. For a message it tells Aculab Cloud how to notify you.

See Outbound and Inbound Services.

How do I start my Outbound Services?

You normally do this programatically using our Web Services API. You can also do it by clicking the Service's gearwheel icon on the Outbound Services page.

How do I send SMS messages?

You send SMS messages using our SMS Messaging Web Service. See Sending and Receiving SMS Messages.

How do I receive SMS messages?

You receive SMS messages by setting up an Inbound Service to notify a web page of yours. See Sending and Receiving SMS Messages.

What is a Conference Participant Id?

Conference Participant Ids uniquely identify participants within conferences. They allow you to manage the participants using the Web Services API, for example to mute or eject them. People typically call into conferences, their calls are answered by your applications which, having interacted with them to discover which room they should join, place calls to connect them to that room. For a given person calling in, their Conference Participant Id is the Instance ID of the application which placed that call.

What programming languages are supported?

For the UAS, we support Python, .Net (C#, VB, C++) and Java. For the REST and Web Services APIs, we support PHP, Python, Java, .Net (C#, VB, F#, C++) and raw HTTP/JSON.

Do you have any code samples?

Yes, see Samples.

Is call transfer supported?

Yes. The UAS and REST APIs allow you to connect the audio from two calls, generally known as hairpinning or tromboning. Aculab Cloud itself introduces very little audio delay when doing this. The UAS API also allows you to do retrievable transfer, where the audio from two calls can bypass Aculab Cloud, instead passing as directly as possible between the two phones.

How do I send a fax?

First, write an outbound application, using the REST API or the UAS API, to send the fax. Create an Outbound Service and set it to run your application. Then start it, either programatically using our Web Services API or manually by clicking the Service's gearwheel icon on the Outbound Services page.

How do I receive a fax?

First, write an inbound application, using the REST API or the UAS API, to receive the fax. Create an Inbound Service and set it to run your application. Call into your Service's telephone number or SIP address.

How do I allow my customers to make calls from a web page?

We support WebRTC, which allows you to embed a client phone into your web page and, when your customers choose, click a button to call one of your Inbound Services. This is often termed Click to Call. See our WebRTC Interface.

Do you support Answering Machine Detection (AMD)?

Yes. We call it Live Speaker Detection or Far-end Classification, and we support this best when calling numbers in the US and the United Kingdom. If you'd like to ask about this for other countries, please contact support.

See Live Speaker Detection.

What is Live Speaker Detection?

It's our name for Answering Machine Detection (AMD).

See Live Speaker Detection.

What is Far-end Classification?

It's our name for Answering Machine Detection (AMD).

See Live Speaker Detection.


Accounts

What is a Developer Account?

When you first sign up with Aculab Cloud, you get a Developer Account. This allows you to use it for development purposes, place and receive SIP calls, receive WebRTC calls and write applications which interact with those calls.

What is a Production Account?

When you first add funds to your Developer Account, it becomes a Production Account. This additionally allows you to use it for deployed applications, buy PSTN numbers, place and receive PSTN calls, and send and receive SMS messages. You pay as you go.

What is a Premium Account?

A Premium Account is much like a Production Account but, instead of pay as you go, you're invoiced for what you use. To request this, please ask for an Account Manager to contact you.

Which Cloud should I choose?

Choose the Cloud which is geographically closest to your users. So, for example, if you're calling people in West Coast USA, you'd choose our US-East Cloud. See Where is Aculab Cloud?


Location and storage

Where is Aculab Cloud?

Aculab's US-East Cloud 1-2-0 is located in Virginia, USA. Our Europe Cloud 0-2-0 is located in Ireland.

Where are my media files stored?"

Your media files are stored on on Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3). So, for Aculab's US-East Cloud 1-2-0 they're stored in Virginia, USA. For our Europe Cloud 0-2-0 they're stored in Ireland.

Should I backup my media files?

Yes. Although your media files are stored on on Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) which is itself highly reliable, it remains sensible to backup your files.

Where are my log files stored?

For REST API applications, a log file is stored on Aculab Cloud for each application run. To access them, see File Management and click the REST logs tab.

For UAS applications, the UAS stores its log files on your machine.


Phones and telephone networks

Do you support WebRTC?

Yes, we make it easy for you to embed a phone in a web page and make calls from it to your Aculab Cloud applications. See our WebRTC Interface.

What is the PSTN?

The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) is the network which allows fixed line and mobile phones to call each other. Aculab Cloud can place and receive calls on this network using our telephony providers or, if you have existing telco relationships, yours.

Can I place outbound calls?

You can place outbound SIP calls on all accounts. To place outbound PSTN calls, you need a Production or Premium Account.

What phones can I call?

You can place a SIP call to any SIP endpoint. You can place a PSTN call to any fixed line or mobile phone.

Do you support Answering Machine Detection (AMD)?

Yes. We call it Live Speaker Detection or Far-end Classification, and we support this best when calling numbers in the US and the United Kingdom. If you'd like to ask about this for other countries, please contact support.

See Live Speaker Detection.

What is Live Speaker Detection?

It's our name for Answering Machine Detection (AMD).

See Live Speaker Detection.

What is Far-end Classification?

It's our name for Answering Machine Detection (AMD).

See Live Speaker Detection.

Can I buy inbound numbers?

Yes, provided you have a Production or Premium Account, you can buy inbound PSTN numbers in many countries - see Inbound Telephone Number Coverage.

Can I use my existing telco?

Almost certainly, yes. Please contact support.

Can I place and receive SIP calls?

Yes. Note that these are just basic SIP calls and may come from a wide range of IP addresses. More advanced features including authentication, registration and fixed SIP addressing can be provided if you ask us to treat the hostname you're calling as an outbound PSTN Provider. Please contact support to arrange. Note also that Aculab Cloud does not implement Network Address Translation (NAT) traversal. It's designed to call SIP endpoints on the public internet, such as telco gateways or SIP gateways at the edge of call centres.


Media files

What kind of audio files can I play and record?

You can play and record wav files.

See Protocols and Formats

Why don't you support mp3 files?

The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), which allows fixed line and mobile phones to call each other, uses the G.711 audio codec and, at the time of writing, is almost invariably sampled at 8KHz. Therefore, the best possible audio quality can be obtained by playing and recording files containing just that type of audio - G.711 (ulaw for the US, Canada and Japan, Alaw elsewhere) sampled at 8KHz. The wav format supports this, and that's why we use it. Playing and recording mp3 files would make the audio quality worse.

What kind of files can I use when sending and receiving faxes?

We support Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) files.

See Tagged Image File Format (TIFF)


Pricing

What is an Extra Channel?

Your applications have access to one Primary Channel and up to three Extra Channels, which you can select when you configure your Outbound or Inbound Services. These allow you to place additional calls and connect them with the Primary Channel main call. That's useful when, for example, you want to give the person on the main call the option to talk with an agent.

What is the Extra Channel pricing model?

This topic is explained on our Pricing page: For details, click See detailed pricing information.

To help understand Extra Channel pricing for UAS applications, these examples show the total cost of the application and any calls when an Extra Channel has been associated with the Primary Channel or not used at all.


Example 1

Channel associated with Primary Channel - caller is transferred from an IVR sytem to an operator. Platform rate charged at 1c per minute.

Example 2

Extra Channel not used as the call is completed within the IVR system. As the Extra Channel is not associated with Primary Channel or used independently, the 10% reservation fee applies. Platform rate charged at 1c per minute.

For more information, see Pricing.

Are REST API applications priced the same as UAS applications?

Yes but with one simplification. On REST applications, Extra Channels are always charged at 10% of the platform rate.

For more information, see Pricing.

How much did that cost?

Each time you run an application, an entry is written to your Application Data Records (ADRs). You can access these by generating a report. The entry is written very shortly after your application has finished running, but note that it takes around 20 minutes to be updated with the costs.


World coverage

In what countries can I buy inbound numbers?

See Inbound Telephone Number Coverage.

What countries can I call?

You can place calls to pretty much any country in the world.


Text To Speech (TTS)

Is your TTS multilingual

Yes, see Text To Speech (TTS).

What TTS engines do you support?

See Text To Speech (TTS).

What TTS languages do you support?

We support a wide range of languages and voices, see Text To Speech (TTS).


Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR)

Is your ASR multilingual?

No, at present we support US English only although it is tolerant of other English accents.

What is an ASGF?

Aculab Cloud ASR uses a grammar to specify which words will be listened for, and in which order they are expected to occur. The grammar needs to conform to a particular format, this is the ASGF.

Scalability

Do I need to give advance notice of my expected traffic levels?

No. Aculab Cloud scales dynamically in response to demand, so we don't normally need advance notice of your traffic levels. Of course, it will help to know in advance if you expect traffic levels to increase substantially, for example when an unusually large major campaign is scheduled to run. In these cases, a few days' notice of the likely traffic patterns is required. That allows us time to provision additional PSTN capacity if required.

Reliability

How do you check Aculab Cloud is performing properly?

Our Monitoring System runs tests on Aculab Cloud 24-7 and, if performance falls below the expected standard, calls an engineer. That engineer will evaluate the issue and, if needed, can call a buddy for assistance. The buddies are all software engineers who helped develop Aculab Cloud.


Support

What level of support do you offer?

See Technical Support and professional Services.

What level of 24-7 emergency cover do you offer?

All our high volume customers have a number they can call 24-7 to report suspected Cloud-side problems. They can leave a message and will be called back within 20 minutes.

Do you offer support contracts?

See Technical Support and professional Services.