IT Management Articles

Twilio Review – Disrupt Your Business Communication Suite With a Communications API and Cloud Platform

by Rakesh Sharma
Published on 14 February 2013

With its high costs and complex infrastructure, telephony is an industry that has been ripe for disruption for some time now. The process has already started with technologies like voice over IP. But that technology alone can't address the needs for businesses to reach its customers, improve employee productivity and reduce costs.

This week, we will look at solution that enables you to scale and customize your customer support, add new ways of integrating voice and SMS into your business communications, and eliminate the closet full of telephony hardware that it took to previously connect your company with all your constituents. In this Twilio review, we'll see how it is a different kind of communications solution that uses the power of the cloud and open APIs to simplify business communications. We will look at its interface, features, and see how it can be of use to you.

Disrupting Telephony

Lynda Smith, chief marketing officer at the company, says that the driving thought behind Twilio is that the future of communications will be built by software people. "One of our key principles is that we should do the hard stuff and our customers should rely on us for universal support without considering the intricacies of telecom," she says.

Those intricacies, which become simple and cost-effective with Twilio, are the bedrock of Twilio's story. Serial entrepreneur and founder of the company Jeff Lawson had already attempted to integrate a telecom workflow into his earlier three companies. "In all of those cases, it was cost-prohibitive and impossible," says Smith. The rise of cloud computing technology provided the necessary incentive for Lawson to achieve economies of scale for his solution.

Twilio is part of the cloud movement that has democratized expensive business software, converting it into affordable alternatives for small- to mid-size businesses. Interestingly. however, the company counts small businesses and large organizations alike amongst its customers. A major reason for this is the range of solution areas supported by its platform. Thus, you can implement contact center applications such as call routing and tracking and, also, workflow management, customer notifications, and lead tracking using the platform. Apart from cost-benefits, Smith says the Twilio's scalability using cloud infrastructure is its unique selling point. "The cloud infrastructure can scale up to instantly meet demand and ramp down as needed," he says. "In addition, there are many more benefits in agent productivity, rapid innovation and agile development, and global reach."

In case you were wondering about the last-mentioned benefit, Smith clarifies that companies can locate their employees anywhere in the world and connect them instantly without the need for specialized hardware or protracted carrier negotiations."

Development Using Twilio

The main thing to remember about Twilio is that it's a platform and can be used to create a wide-range of solutions. With it, you can build applications to address a wide variety of tasks including making or receiving calls and messages, converting your browser into a phone line and vice versa etc. Although these tasks sound fairly technical, Twilio strips away the complexity using a simple, easy-to-use applications programming interface. Registration is fairly simple and involves configuring a Twilio number for calls and messages.

You can start building applications immediately after registration. To do this, the solution has offered a number of tools to help developers get up and running as quickly as possible. Developers can access the solution's API and immediately start building apps using the company's programming language - TwiML. In its structure and syntax, TwiML is fairly similar to HTML. In fact, it is easier because it uses well-known English verbs to accomplish tasks.

For example, you can use and commands to configure Twilio applications and gather data about them. "Even more seasoned developers find our API and SDK very accessible because of our thorough documentation and language-agnostic approach," says Smith. Twilio supports over a dozen popular languages such as Python, Ruby, and PHP.

Building Apps Using Twilio

You can either follow standard workflows or customize specific workflows for call processing using Twilio. For example, you can upload multimedia or record a caller's voice using the application. This means you can add music or messages during wait period for callers or specify call back numbers upon pressing of specific digits.


Twilio can also be used for innovative applications. In an example outlined by Smith, an online platform for complaints against Big Businesses uses the application to diversify its outreach channels and enable users to report issues via voice and SMS. In another interesting example, Smith says an online mailing platform uses Twilio SMS to connect people at events though quickly provisioned phone numbers and SMS messages.

However, one of the more interesting uses of the platform is its role as a lead generation tool. You can associate links to your advertisers with a number. Each click translates into a call to your service, which can, then, be forwarded onto a new number.


Twilio's Future

Considering the company's premise and disruption possibilities, I asked Smtih about Twilio's future. She outlined a world of cloud platforms and communication APIs that enable massive innovation in the ways we communicate. "We believe Twilio has the potential to change the future of communications forever by enabling software people to invent new ways of interacting through the supercomputer that's in all our pockets," she says. "So many interesting applications have already been built, but we're just scratching the surface. We can't wait to see what people build with Twilio in the coming years."

Supporting Twilio

Twilio has a comprehensive support channel that includes sales, community, and help documentation. Because Twilio solutions are built by developers, Twilio includes an extensive helper library that includes details about TwiML and excellent API documentation to help your developers get up-to-speed as soon as possible.

Is it for you?

As I mentioned earlier, the solution is scalable and customizable. Signing up for a Twilio account is completely free. And, when you launch your Twilio application, you only pay for the what you use.


Apps mentioned in this article