Hosted VoIP, Considerations and Comments

Nextiva, Ring Central, Vonage, 8X8 ? Perhaps these names are familiar to you or perhaps not. They all happen to be providers of hosted VoIP phone systems and have many things in common that should be of interest to anyone considering a new telephone system.
Our company sells premise based telephone systems and we compete with the above mentioned and other hosted VoIP providers every day. All of these companies are based out of state, will tell you (over the phone) that implementation is nothing more than plugging the phones (which they will ship you) into a computer network jack and presto: you have a new telephone system!

The fact of the matter is that nothing in telecommunications is “plug and play”, and if you do need on site support for installation or service the hosted providers simply do not offer it as they do not have local  service technicians. The potential for problems is based upon their business model.

Companies like ours have local, knowledgeable sales people who can meet with you to perform a needs analysis, assess the existing wiring infrastructure and explain to you in plain English how your organization may benefit from technology such as VoIP. Most hosted vendors do not have any outside sales professionals  who  would be able to meet with you either (again, over the phone only).

We have been offering VoIP telephone systems for over 12 years (along with more traditional digital communications systems) and believe that the technology offers great benefits. Local companies such as ours will invest the time to meet with you to understand your needs and help you determine if and how Voice over IP would benefit your organization, and if your infrastructure will support the deployment of VoIP telephones. Once these preparatory steps are completed, you can count on a local vendor to provide a turnkey telephone system that includes onsite installation and training, along with onsite support whenever the need arises.

Feel free to contact us at any time for a free onsite consultation.

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Case Study: Benefits of a Hybrid Telephone System Architecture

Power 3 was recently awarded a contract for an integrated telecommunications system for a town in Massachusetts. The project involves replacing the telephone systems at five of the town’s municipal buildings and four public schools. The key requirement was that the system had to be fully integrated: meaning that the system would support extension to extension dialing and call transfer both within and between each of the town’s nine buildings, and centralized voice mail. The solution we offered illustrates the flexibility of the Samsung OfficeServ 7000 communications systems and the importance of design philosophy in delivering a cost effective solution.

There are a couple of ways to address a requirement such as this. The first is to install one system to support all nine buildings. This approach would require the deployment of VoIP telephone sets in every location with the possible exception of the building where the system is installed. The alternative, which Power 3 proposed, is to install separate systems in each of the buildings, and integrate them using VoIP technology and Samsung’s SPNet multisite networking software (which also supports centralized voice mail).  This solution was deemed best by the town because it provides the fully integrated solution specified, was the most cost effective and offers survivability on a per location basis in the event of any data network problems.

Our solution was the most cost effective because of the flexibility of the Samsung Office 7000 series of communications platforms. The OfficeServ systems are classified as hybrids, in that they can support any combination digital, VoIP or analog devices which best suit an organization’s requirements. We could have proposed one central system for the town with all IP telephone sets. This approach would have added significant expense to the project as extensive rewiring and upgrades to the data network infrastructure (routers, POE switches) would be required to support IP phones. The Samsung DS 5000 series digital telephones we recommended do not require any re-cabling or network upgrades as they can reuse the wiring of the existing telephone systems. Digital telephones cost less than VoIP phones, which also contributed to the financial advantage of our solution.

Voice over IP technology (along with SPNet software) will be used to integrate the nine systems together for the seamless telecommunications network the town requested. The hybrid architecture of the OfficeServ product line allowed us to design a system that will utilize VoIP where it will provide value; without the necessity of deploying IP phones which would increase the cost of the project without providing any additional benefits. Installing separate systems for each of the town offices and schools also insures survivability in the event of any problems with the data network or internet, as each building has been designed to have access to the public telephone network.

Power 3 Communications is able to deliver the fully integrated system specified in the most cost effective manner possible by combining our years of experience designing multi-location telecommunications networks with the power and flexibility of Samsung’s OfficeServ 7000 series communications platforms.

 

 

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Case Study: Voice over IP in Action!

We have discussed Voice over IP applications in general terms in previous blogs. I had a meeting with an existing customer a couple of weeks back which I have decided to share as it illustrates the ”real life ” benefits VoIP technology provides. The main purpose of the meeting was to discuss expanding the Samsung OfficeServ 7100 communications system to support their growth -  the conversation started with him telling me how great VoIP has been for his business.

This customer is a manufacturing company headquartered in southeastern Massachusetts. Currently they are using 14 digital extensions in the office and four Samsung ITP 5121 IP phones for remote locations – two of the remote offices happen to be in Hong Kong and the Phillipines. Our customer’s assessment of their experience with VoIP put it best: “this technology is amazing – the Hong Kong and Phillpiines offices call each other and the main office for free, and we call them for free! In addition to all this, the voice quality is great.” The calls to and from the international offices are free because VoIP voice traffic is carried over an internet connection – just like an email message. Since the  IP phones are simply  extensions off their phone system, calls from the Asian offices to anywhere in the US are billable as domestic calls.

As this customer is also using SIP lines from Broadvox for phone service, they are able to make unlimited local and long distance calls for a flat monthly fee of $29.00 per line. (SIP trunking is very viable alternative to conventional phone service if reliable, inexpensive broadband is available from either Comcast or Verizon FIOS).

This case study illustrates some significant points for anyone considering a new telephone system. VoIP deployment is suitable for any size company and provides excellent voice quality. The system configuration for this customer is also noteworthy. They are using digital telephones in the office and VoIP where it is warranted by their specific requirements: the remote phones (for full integration with the office and the elimination of international calling charges) and phone lines (for reducing the monthly phone bill). Power 3 Communications implements these types of solutions by taking the time to design systems which address the operational needs of our customers and by offering the Samsung OfficeServ 7000 series of communications platforms that offer the flexibility necessary to address customer specific applications.

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Computer Telephony Integration (CTI)

Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) consists of a number of applications based upon integrating an office’s telephone system with the computer network. CTI apps are designed to enhance organizational efficiency and productivity (an informational note to address a common misconception: CTI does not require or involve Voice over IP for most of the available applications). The Samsung OfficeServ 7000 series communications systems have supported  CTI for a number of years – the timing of this post is based upon the forthcoming release by Samsung Telecommunications America of Samsung Xchange, which is a product portfolio which significantly enhances Samsung’s position in the CTI space. Information specific to Xchange will be available on our web page in the coming weeks, this blog will address the most common CTI applications.

Screen popping is a feature that opens a contact record ( in, for example; Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, Goldmine) based upon the incoming caller id information. Information pertaining to the caller is available immediately, and updates based upon the call can be entered as necessary. This enhances both the caller’s experience by minimizing time on the phone and the productivity of the employee by eliminating the process of manually opening the caller’s contact record.

Desk top call control is another CTI app that enhances efficiency. Calls can be made by simply “clicking” on the number in the contact record – this is especially useful to people who make a large number of outbound calls as it saves time and increases accuracy by not having to dial the number. Desk top call control also provides the capability to redirect incoming calls on a real time basis without having to first answer the call. This also improves the caller’s experience by directing them to someone who can help them immediately if the person they called is busy with someone else and reduces the amount telephone tag.

Presence is one of the more recent CTI apps, but one which I believe will gain wide scale deployment because of the benefits it provides. Presence information allows you to instantly see who is available in your organization from the desk top (including availability by mobile phone, in Samsung’s case), giving more flexibility to assist customers or set up short-term meetings and conference calls. The result is precise communication that all but eliminates the inefficiency of phone tag or email messaging.

The common thread linking each of these apps is their ability to increase organizational competitiveness by making employees more accessible to customers, and reducing costs by enhancing efficiency and workforce productivity. Stay tuned for the information we will be providing on Samsung Xchange, which includes all of these applications and  much more.

 

 

 

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Unified Messaging

Unified Messaging (UM) is a great application with a very straight forward description: It provides the integration of different electronic messaging and communications media (e-mail, voicemail and fax) technologies into a single interface, the email inbox, and makes them accessible from both the desk top PC and smart phones.

A couple of comments about Unified Messaging in general before proceeding to the benefits. First, UM is not new – it has actually been available for about 15 years and was originally developed by a company called Active Voice Corp. Acceptance in the SMB market was relatively slow until last five or six years because of cost – it was a $5,000.00 addition to the base cost of a voice messaging system when it was first released by Active Voice and remained an expensive feature as part of Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager platform for many years. Now, the cost of adding this capability to any of Samsung’s OfficeServ SVMi series voice messaging systems is less than $650.00. Competing products also offer cost effective UM solutions.

The other point deserving clarification is that Unified Messaging is not a Voice over IP application and does not require any VoIP capability in the office telephone system for deployment. I am not sure of the origin of this misconception, but it is quite common and awareness of it can help significantly reduce the cost of implementing a new telephone system.

The primary benefits of Unified Messaging are simplifying office life and increasing efficiency. With UM, voice mail messages and fax’s are delivered directly to a user’s email inbox – simplifying the user experience by providing one place to check for all three types of messages. This also applies when people are away from the office as all smart phones (IPhones, Droids and Blackberrys) can fully integrate with the office email system. The task of calling into the office to check for voice mail messages is eliminated and they are delivered as soon as the calling party completes the message. Having instantaneous access to messages and being able to respond quickly offers huge competitive advantages to any organization.

The other big benefit of Unified Messaging is the management of voice mail messages. UM allows the user to store voice mail messages that need to be saved in folders on their PC or network. Stored voice messages can be retrieved as easily as Word docs, emails or spread sheets – and they can emailed to anyone as they as are stored in a standard Wav File format. This functionality also applies to fax’s and will hopefully save some trees as the need to print fax’s will be mostly eliminated.

In terms of bang for the buck, I have not seen a telecom application more useful than Unified Messaging in quite some time.

 

 

 

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