I recently wrote an article about Business VoIP. In doing a bit of research for it, I noticed that when you do a google search on "business voip," you get a ton of hits for hosted voip. Many of them are 'referral engines.' You put your info in and they send it out as a lead to hosted voip companies that then compete for your business. (Disclosure: Those services exist for PBx vendors as well - and TTM uses them)
Some of those companies are legitimate H-VoIP companies - though again, there are so many of them with crazy names and located all over the country, that is can be a little unsettling.
But when all is said and done, is H-VoIP a good idea...and for who?
Well, let's start with this:
5 Reasons Hosted VoIP Sucks
- Quality of Service: QoS is the process of giving your voice priority on your internet/network over your data. If you don't have this dialed in, your call quality will be bad.
- Lack of Customization: There will be some level of customization available in terms of the auto attendant, voicemail options, etc...but you've going to have a very basic system - compared to something like a Switchvox which is customizable at every turn and can have custom API's written to do just about anything.
- Potentially Inferior Customer Service: I say potentially, because at the end of the day, you're dealing with people at a company that you've never met...and there's only so much you can do over the phone some times. This may never be an issue for you. Just be aware that it may be...and sometimes it's helpful to get to meet a person from the company you're partnering with...and to have them available to stop by if you need it.
- Growing can be painful: Every phone call and every intercom call and everything goes over your internet...so you'd better be sure you have enough bandwidth!
- Features, features, features: At this point in time, you just can't get all the features with a hosted VoIP system that you can with one that is located in your office. Someday...maybe. But not now. This is not a big deal for many small businesses, but I just want you to be aware of it.
Now, with that being said, here's why you might want to try it:
- It can be a less expensive way to get started...equipment and all
- You don't have to invest in a phone system, and for some start ups and small companies, that is a huge benefit
- Sometimes, they give you the phones for FREE! (Don't expect top of the line phones - but some companies will provide entry level Polycom phones, which are really nice)
- You can get by with less IT help - sort of.
- The QoS issue above is a big one. Having the right telecom/IT help to make sure your QoS is right can be very important.
- It's not impossible for a H-VoIP provider to help you set up your router, so it is possible to do this yourself.
- The industry is growing all the time - so you may be able to find a hosted VoIP solution that I don't know about...and it is awesome. (Way to go!)
Have you come across a hosted VoIP solution that you are especially excited about? Let me know in the comments section!
In my opinion, the #1 VoIP business phone system on the market today is the Digium Switchvox. Total Cost of ownership is lower than any system out there in its class, features & functionality are better, and innovation and design are superior to any competitor on the market.
But not everyone is going to do business with TTM. For a variety of reasons, some of you will wind up working with another vendor and buying a different phone system... So for those of you who are "them," here's my list of the next 5 best VoIP service providers in the market.
- Shoretel: I like the architecture of the Shoretel box...they built it right. It's also got a tremendous user interface. I think their phones look pretty cool too...if that's your thing. One thing I appreciate about Shoretel in general is that they have great marketing and informational material...I have learned a lot from them.
- Cisco: They have been the gold standard for a lot of years, and let's just say it - their products are awesome. the prestige that comes with owning a Cisco will far outweigh the exorbitant cost. They are really getting into the video conferencing game as well...for all you high-end pretty business people.
- Panasonic: I lost a bid the other day to Panasonic. Here's why - Panasonic has a phone system that is like their "tough" notebooks, designed to thrive in high heat, dust, and other miserable environmental situations. I couldn't find which phone system they were talking about - maybe you know? [Comments]
- NEC: I wrestled with whether to put this on the list. TTM does sell this system too, but there are a ton of NEC dealerships in the bay area...so this benefits them too! I love NEC as a simple business phone system. It is a VoIP system - but suppots digital phones as well, and has a all the tools you'd need ( UC, mobility, etc.) it is an easy to use, "we all understand it" phone system.
- Talkswitch: This is a small VoIP system with a nice set up features. It is fairly reliable and super inexpensive compared to any other system on the market.
Honorable mention: Panterra Networks. Competitor of ours, but they have a really cool looking hosted solution. I've yet to use it or hear anything about it, so be careful. But, from first glance, it looks really strong for people looking into a hosted VoIP solution.
Hope that helps! If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them below in the comments section...
Not having enough bandwidth for a VoIP phone system can be devastating - to you, to your business, to the company who sold you the system...and it is very avoidable.
Here are 5 "secrets" to being confident that you have enough bandwidth for implementing a Voice over IP phone system.
- Secret #1:Write down your current bandwidth. Don't guess. Don't think. Look it up and write it down. That number is important. If you don't know it, I found an awesome tool you can use: Bandwidth.com's VoIP Test. Really clean, tells you your current download speed and upload speed. They are a 'competitor' of ours (though much bigger) and have a lot of great info on their site as well.
- Secret #2: Be clear how much bandwidth 1 phone call takes on your VoIP solution. Most phone calls take between 80 and 100 kbps. Find out and write that number down.
- Secret #3: Figure out how many "concurrent" phone calls your company will need. Concurrent basically means "at the same time." (and yes, I had to look it up) So, be aware over the next couple days: How many people do we have on the phones all at once? What is the highest number of people that you think your company will need on the phones all at the same time. Write that number down.
- Secret #4: Get an understanding of your data usage. Does your company send and receive a lot of huge files? Do most people just use email and a bit of web surfing? This is hard to put a number too, but you've got to at least have a sense of whether you use a lot of bandwidth or a little bit of bandwidth.
- Secret #5: Leave yourself some margin! From experience, I can tell you that figuring out how much bandwidth you need and then trying to cut costs by getting as close to that as possible is just a bad idea. Give your self 1/2M to 1M margin on your internet bandwidth.
Would you like to download our eBook on this (with free "bandwidth equation-calculator fill in the blank form!")?
Cbeyond is a company that I really have a ton of respect for (direct reps aside). They really are a company that understands what it means to be an Information and Communication Technology leader. They bring the IT and the Telecom worlds together in a unique way that is specifically geared towards small businesses. With Cbeyond and a simple NEC SV8100 phone system, an entrepreneur could have a business up and running with no IT people or telecom hassels (Of course, TTM is always here to help)...and you could do it really affordably! (I didn't say cheap...cheap people please do not inquire) If you missed it, I wrote about the Cbeyond BeyondVoice Office Edition and what I like about that.
Another of the cool offerings Cbeyond has is their BeyondVoice Mobile Edition. Here's what I like about that offering:
- It comes with everything that the BeyondVoice Office Edition comes with
- You seemlessly integrate your mobile services with your voice and data! This is cool because all your billing is in one place - and take it from me, I've seen enough telecom bills to know that Cbeyond's is the cleanest and easiest to read in the business.
- It uses the Sprint network. If you hate Sprint, this is where you get off the Mobile Edition Bandwagon...of course. We use Sprint at TTM, and I have found the coverage to be excellent. With the pricing, esepcially the "all you can eat" packages and the expanding cool menu of phones, this is a great opportunity for many of you.
The official page is located right here ---> Cbeyond BeyondVoice Mobile Edition
Why not set up an appointment with me to see if Cbeyond is the best option for your business?
No service is for every business...admitted. And as a disclaimer: TTM Communications is a Cbeyond Value Added Reseller (VAR).
Now that we've got that straight, let me say that I think Cbeyond's BeyondVoice Office Edition is my favorite on the market, and I'll tell you why.
- It really is for small businesses and entrepreneurs: Small companies and entrepreneurs could forgo an IT person w/ Cbeyond. It's that good and that complete.
- They've built a fully VoIP based network from the ground up on Cisco equipment: the excellence in their gear is notable to me as other telecom co's work to keep up...
- Cbeyond offers flexible services and packages that meet your company's needs: They all do, but I've noticed that there is actually more variety in the Cbeyond offerings, and they always have cool promotions.
- They are a true ICT company: Information and Communication Technology is the next evolution of IT + Telecom...and Cbeyond is really making it happen.
- They are striving for excellence in customer service: There is a fair amount of negative press on the web about Cbeyond, and I won't say the company is perfect. I will say this - they continue to work extremely hard at improving and being an industry leader in service...and I see that happening.
- They integrate mobile phone plans as well! Their network uses the Sprint network and the pricing is "Sprint-esque" (i.e. less expensive than AT&T & Verizon and the coverage is pretty good. We use Sprint here at TTM!) Check out this article on Cbeyond BeyondVoice Mobile Edition #bitchen.
What are the core components of the Cbeyond BeyondVoice Office Edition?
- Local and long distance calling
- High speed Internet
- PC backup
- Security software and Website hosting.
- And a ton more
Here's a link to the product page - Cbeyond BeyondVoice Office Edition. Once you check it out, let TTM get you set up...I guarantee you'll feel loved.
Back in April (April 13th, 2010 to be exact) I posted a video I came across by Tristan Barnum, product marketing director for Digium Switchvox. The post was 5 Things You Didn't Know about VoIP...but Probably Should! The video Tristan did was great, the way I framed it was ok...the response to my post was truly underwhelming.
In my research of VoIP and business phone systems I came across ITBusinessEdge. They did a 6 slide slideshow summarizing Tristan's video...and I think they did a great job! Going through the slides reminded me of how good the information contained there in is. As I am reading more and more on the web about Voice over IP serivces and information, I am coming to the conclusion that there are a lot of blogs out there writing really lame articles and whitepapers about VoIP so they can sell advertising space...and they don't actually know much about VoIP or SIP or other four-letter words I'll refrain from posting.
If you need help with VoIP, IP PBx Phones and Phone Systems, SIP or Unified Communications, please check out this slideshow. It doesn't cover everything, but what it does cover is excellent.
Watch the "5 Things You Need To Know About VoIP" slideshow!
And please, be sure to say thank you to the people at ITBusinessEdge and let Tristan know what a stud she is!
Let me just make something very clear: magicJack is not a viable business VoIP solution. I know that will be hard on many of you. Now, the case where that may not be true is if you are like the business owner I spoke to a week ago: 1 phone with call waiting and a voicemail, sole proprietor w/ zero employees. For that guy...magicJack will kill it.
If you, however, own a business that actually has employees and multiple locations and phone bills that are well over $1,000/mo (or even $10,000/mo), this article may be helpful. (If you have a business that does not have multiple locations but is paying over a $1,000/mo - I have some thoughts on buying a business phone system here...coming soon)
I did a quick google search on 'business voip.' What I got was a myriad of hosted voip services.** It's good business SEO for them, but not good business VoIP for you. (I will write an article on who would be best served by a hosted VoIP system.**) The bottom line seems to be this: Hosted VoIP is good for small business that need basic phone capability with auto-attendant, and voicemail. It can be as expensive in the long run as a digital system, so be careful. It all depends on how you implement a telecom solution.
For businesses looking to get into a Buiness VoIP phone system, here's what I think you need to be looking at:
- Do you have mulitple locations or remote workers? Both?
- Do you have the bandwidth for VoIP?
- How much telecom expertise do you have in your organization?
- Do you want a proprietary system or open source? Do you care?
- Are your voice and data services separate? Do they need to be?
- How many calls does your company take/make at one time (think: max number of calls in/out at any given point in time during a day)?
- Are you trying to lower your expenses?
- Are you going to expand the business...and therefor the phone system?
- Are you sales driven or working to maximize your customer service incoming calls? or both?
- Do you want to know where people are all day? (aka 'presence')
- Do you have a call center that needs a high level of function and administration tools?
- Do you want to have your phone system integrate with your Outlook and/or other CRM?
- Do you use/need conference calling?
- Do you have unique communication demands that will require special applications or functions?
- Will you want your voicemails to be delivered to you as a .wav file in an email?
INFORMATION YOU'LL NEED TO KNOW
- Monthly expenses for phone services and data (i.e. internet) services
- IT involvement - how involved will your IT person/people be? It matters...big time.
- How do you currently handle faxes?
Many people want a quick fix when it comes to a new phone system...and believe me, there are plenty of companies that would love to help you. At TTM, we believe that the best way to purchase and implement a business VoIP solution is through meticulous preparation and execution. The reason so many of us have or know of phone system nightmares is due to poor planning and execution. Take your time and do it right.
I would love to hear your thoughts or comments...
This is a really cool video I came across from Digium. Learn key foundational principles about VoIP, its costs, implementation, and what is perhaps one of the most shocking statements about VoIP that anyone who has done any research into the issue will ever hear! (well, maybe not that extreme..but it is a little mind-bending)
Click her for the video! --->
After you watch the video, let us know what you think!
- What would you add to that list?
- What else do people need to be aware of?
If you want to know what I think about it, get my white paper here.
Unless you've been "off the grid" and on vacation deep in the jungle, you know that Apple released the iPad on Saturday (4/3/10). I've read a significant number of reviews now, and clearly opinion is divided. What cannot be denied is this: the iPad changes the game...for all of us.
What grabbed my attention for this blog is an article I read at the VoIP Monitor, Truphone Gives Apple iPad Owners a Voice. In summary, the iPad will begin to work as a VoIP phone. Now, currently, the iPad can't multi-task, so if you're on the phone, you won't be blogging and checking facebook at the same time. However, that capability is not far away. I asked myself, "will this impact the business phone system industry?"
Additionally, this morning, Marc Benioff announced Cloud 2.0. It's a shift from software as a solution to the "facebook age" of business. Total transparency. Real time support and service. Complete company integration.
That means that we are quickly moving to a time and space where bandwidth will dominate, all of our life will be coordinated on a simple, easy to carry tablet (rumors that Google has one on the way are growing), and business foundations, including their communication systems, will change - forever.
Now, as I talk with people daily, I am finding more and more people who have no idea how to fully use the business phone systems they currently have. How in the world are they supposed to keep up with the brainiacs that keep changing technology on them? And what does that mean for so many business who are faced with the impending technology shift, but stil haven't embraced their current technology?
Here are 5 things a company can do to prepare for what's ahead.
- Admit you have a problem keeping up and understanding. That's half the battle right there.
- Get help. There are a number of great movemens springing up that help people think through their business strategy with regards to developing technology. At TTM, we are working through that too. Guiding our clients through the Information and Communication Technology landscape is something we take seriously.
- Find someone inside your company that is a total tech geek - who really loves all this iPod, iPad, iPhone, Google, Chrome, yada, yada, yada stuff and begin to give them some encouragement to think through how that technology could effect and improve your current business
- Sign up for the TTM blog! It will cover these kinds of issues and help you wrestle through these issues for your company. (Form is just to your left!)
- Take time every so often to unplug everything, have a glass of wine and listen to the soundtrack from The Shawshank Redemption or Miles Davis (any album). Technology can destroy your soul, and no business is worth that.
Admittedly, these 5 steps are just a starting point.
What do you think will help companies adjust to the quickly shifting technology landscape?
Are you concerned?
What help do you wish you had?
Comment below and let us know...
Let's talk about relationships for just a minute: yesterday I spoke with a guy who I had tried to do business with - unsuccessfully. The reason was that another vendor came in cheaper than I did. Fastforward several weeks. I stopped by this business: their phone system was messed up. Vociemails were getting lost (i.e. lost business), certain phones didn't ring, transfers were hard, making changes to voice mail box options was impossible - and the employees were really frustrated.
(Seriously...this is what a Hosted PBx does for you? This image is wrong on so many levels)
- Lost business (serice business for an auto dealership)
- Frustrated employees (in the service department)
- Most likely irritated customers (e.g. when is my car going to be done!)
- SAVED: $350
On what planet does that make sense?!
POINT: you get what you pay for, and often times you wind up paying for what you got. Business owners are constantly trying to cut costs - and that is understandable. But at some point, you've got to become aware of the money you are losing as a result of your meagor savings!
How does this connect to a Hosted PBx phone system? Here's how:
- Most companies don't have the right bandwidth
- The phone company is not telling the whole truth - it's harder than it looks
- When you "save" that money and lay yourself at the mercy of Ma Bell...do you really think service will be timely and personal?
Not every company has the working capital to do it, but please, if you do - don't scrimp on your communications. They are the life-line of your business. Find someone who will be there when you need them. VoIP is far from perfect, you will have issues - the key is who will walk with you through that valley.
I believe the ROI will far exceed your expectations...
What do you think? I would love for you to share your thoughts...COMMENT AWAY!