SendHub makes business communications easy with Twilio

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SendHub aspires to be Google Apps for business phones, and it is working its way towards that goal with the help of Twilio. Its communications offering—built on the Twilio communications API platform and using Twilio Voice, Twilio SMS, and Twilio Client—is radically simplifying the process of provisioning business phone lines.

Keeping what works—chucking what doesn’t

Companies are looking for ways to say goodbye to traditional business phone systems. They want to clean out their telecom closets and throw away their desk phones. Meanwhile, employees want the simplicity of being able to take all their calls on one device without sharing information about their personal phone usage with their employers.

One response to these changing attitudes is the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement. But companies that chose to let employees use their personal phones for work soon found that what they gained from simplifying business communications was lost in valuable business information, such as how many calls were being made and by whom. Meanwhile, attempts to directly manage employee devices introduced a host of security, management, and legal issues.

SendHub’s co-founders Ash Rust and Garrett Johnson were convinced that they could build a better BYOD solution on Twilio’s communications API platform.

Simplicity, flexibility, and security come together

Today, SendHub offers businesses the opportunity to sign up for a business phone line (or lines) on the web or through iOS and Android apps. Employees can then use the lines on their own devices—while still maintaining their privacy. Meanwhile, information about business calls is captured by SendHub and is readily available to business owners.

The service currently can be accessed from either iPhone, an Android app or via a web interface. Users with feature phones can forward incoming calls or texts from the web interface for extra mobility.

“Our goal was to make this a no-IT solution,” Rust said. “You should be able to get up and running in just a minute. You just sign up, provide your name, verify your cell phone number and then you are able to add as many lines as you need.” He urges customers to take the service for test drive using a free plan offering 500 text messages and 60 voice minutes.

Rust said the service immediately proved popular with small and medium businesses. Weekly signup rates soared 50% after it was launched. In addition to SMS and voice communication, the service offers extras like voicemail transcription, call transfers, call forwarding, simulring, and an auto attendant.

“Twilio Client is absolutely crucial to the success of our business phone service.”

Ash Rust Co-Founder

Rust and Johnson got the idea for the service after observing how users were interacting with other products they had already built on Twilio. SendHub started as an SMS marketing platform for small businesses, sports leagues, faith groups and teachers. They were doing well delivering SMS notifications. Then they added voice, causing SendHub to grow explosively. A true business phone service was a logical next step. “We wanted something we could use for our business,” Rust said.

Savings on both sides

Rust credits the Twilio communications API platform for making the service possible and for allowing the team to iterate quickly. By building the business phone service on Twilio Client, which makes it possible to make or receive calls from the browser, Rust estimates he saved weeks of web development time, while Twilio’s iOS SDK helped shorten the time to release the iOS app by several months.

SendHub also benefited from Twilio’s commitment to cutting edge technologies such as WebRTC, a set of real-time communications protocols that are incorporated into Twilio Client. WebRTC improves voice quality and usability. Rust says WebRTC solves many of the frustrations of browser-based calling by replacing Flash while also making phone calls sound better. “There’s a noticeable difference in terms of quality,” he said.

In addition to enjoying clearer phone calls, businesses who embrace SendHub’s BYOD business lines get far more visibility into their business phone usage than they had in the age of telecom closets and desk phones. “We give you a dashboard where you can see all the calls and texts that are coming in and going out of your system, right now, or over multiple time periods,” Rust said. “You can view the information in aggregate or break it down by teams or individual employees.” The services can also dramatically cut the cost of communications. By encouraging employees to install SendHub’s mobile app on their phones, businesses have been able to reduce monthly bills by a factor of ten.

Building it smart

SendHub built its business phone system on a back-end that runs on a mix of Djano/Flask on Python. Integration with Twilio was completed using TwiML and the Twilio Python REST SDK. The front-end of the business phone system was built using the Twilio JavaScript library to make and receive calls. The app itself leverages JavaScript, jQuery, and Backbone. Developers said the best part of working with Twilio was the ease with which it fit into their existing architecture. They also praised the WebRTC integration saying that it would have been difficult to write from scratch.

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