There is a lot of equipment in my office that cause me grief, pain and suffering.
Like for instance, I have this printer. A mammoth, $4000 dollar printer that I picked up from a local guy on Craigs List for like… $400. A steal!
My buddy, a guy named Patrick actually found it for me. He called me and said “Hey! I found the most awesome printer for you.. you know.. the one you have been looking for… a 4 color laser jet, right?? Well THIS is a steal, and a great printer, and you should buy it.”
So I did. The two of us damn near broke our backs to move this 200 pound mammoth to the second floor platform that is my main sales office. I mean this thing is HEAVY!
We plugged it in, and the first thing I realized is… “we need another network hub for this thing to work.”
Off to Office Depot or wherever, 2 hours later, $120 dollars later, a network hub and cables to connect it!
Oh, and then we need to adjust my router so the thing has an ip address… hours.
OH, and then we need to go to everyone’s computer, and install a special piece of software, but the first version downloaded doesn’t work, the second one doesn’t work, the third one doesn’t work, the fourth one does. An entire weekend disappeared.
Even though the manufacturers website told us that software a, and b, and c, and d would work, only D did.
FINALLY! I get to print…. oooo think again. The fuser needs to be replaced. And “this” and “that” needs to be cleaned, and one toner cartridge is empty. This is how I learned that the toner cartridges for this beast are like… $400 dollars each, and the fuser is almost $1000.
Still, ok.. It’s a deal. I didn’t pay $4000 for the printer. This is fine.
Well, the parts arrive 4 days later, but Patrick can’t make it back for a week or so because of his schedule, and I’m no “printer guru”, so I have to scramble to undo everything and reconnect our old printer, which was ailing, and a pain considering I am no printer guru.
Only now, all of our default printers in Windows have been reset and on and on this goes. Not to mention the two MACs in our office. O boy!
Eventually, we get the printer up and running, but then find out, it ALWAYS wants to print from tray 1, which isn’t a tray at all, it’s a fold down thing on the front, when you have two perfectly good paper trays underneath, but they are Tray 2 and Tray 3… not Tray 1.
So now, every time you want to print, you must manually change this, and on and on THIS goes.
Ok, the scenario I have just described to you is what I call a…
“FistFight With Technology”
This is something any office rat understands all to well. It’s more than just a fistfight with the “technology”, it is also a fistfight with:
- The manufacturer’s website.
- The “FAQ”.
- The Physical Design.
- The Drivers
- Amazon.com and Toner
- Print Software
- All kinds of shit, right?
I face it, you face it, your employees face it, and it’s aggravating. This is the kind of stuff that makes dinner with your family no where near as fun as it should be.
At least I did it to myself! Sometimes, it’s the receptionist who has to deal with the horrible decision the boss or the bosses wife made. And sometimes, the boss and the bosses wife e hardly EVER in the office, using the stuff!
Then comes the explosion of the coolest buzzword of the 2000’s… Voice Over Internet Protocal — VOIP — AKA (also known as – Pain and Suffering).
If you think the printer sucks, try VoiP. And if you are a small business, you absolutely MUST love pain and misery to even utter the word.
If your printer doesn’t work, or is a hassle, that’s livable. But when your ties to the outside world, your customers, your vendors, your everything.. doesn’t work, it can tank your business or drain your line of credit trying to make it work or worse, you could lose your phone numbers.. forever!
It’s actually a little deeper than that. Yes, the bottom line is “implementation sucks”, and is “heroically challenging at best”, AND it always takes “more hardware”, and “more programming”, and “usability probably stinks”, and “you could lose your phone numbers.. forever”, and you never know this from the start.
That’s the bottom line…
Above all is the mass confusion, and hyper-marketing you are bombarded with. It makes it very difficult to discern a bad position for your day to day business, and your credit card.
Companies love to sell VOIP because it moves you further and further away from control and moves them closer and closer to being in your pocket at all times.
If you are Exxon, this is ok.
If you are an Endocrinologist with one office, one doctor, one office manager, two nurses and a receptionist, this sucks.. and besides, IT is already deep in your pocket with “Medware”, and YOU already know the nightmare there… when your server crashes every 5 days and refuses to connect to the mother-ship.
What do you do? You pick up the phone and call an IT guy, who remotes in and charges you $175 dollars an hour to fix something that should have worked the first 90 times.
Ok, let’s talk about VoiP. I don’t feel like you can truly “get me” until we have some basic knowledge of what you face.
You will encounter 3 types of VoiP.
- Phone System To Telephone Unit.
- Phone System to IP Telephone Line (actually, an emulated line.. think “Vonage” or “MagicJack”).
- Hosted Voip ( this is for those who REALLY love pain and suffering ).
Now, let me first say this. Like anything else, everything has its good versions and its bad versions. It is totally possible that any of these 3 work out just fine.. its just navigating the minefield first. I hate headaches, and I hate minefields.
Let me put this into perspective.
PHONE SYSTEM TO TELEPHONE UNIT VOIP
In this scenario, you have a physical phone system installed in your office. The phone system communicates to the “outside world” just as any other phone system does; through regular copper phone lines, a T-1 or a PRI. Just like it has been done for like.. since the telephone was invented.
In this case though, the actual telephone units.. the one sitting on your desk, are connected to the phone system via your internal internet network instead of through a separate cable.
Think of it like this. Instead of plugging your phone into the “second jack on the wall”, you piggy back it off your computer.
The phone has a “hub” inside of it. So you disconnect the cable from your computer and instead plug it into your phone. Then a shorter cord bridges the phone to your computer.
All internet traffic that arrives at your computer is passed through your phone. Your phone gets one IP address and your computer gets another.
Sound complicated? That’s because it is. Now you have to hassle with making sure your “router” is all setup to issue double the number of IP addresses, and that you will have no “collision” problems which would make your voice quality sound like poop-smear, and you also get to worry about one device “stealing” the ip address of another.
This can lead to a whole lot of rebooting of everything in your office, and it can be a real hassle. Particularly if the person who set it up, doesn’t know what they are doing… and there are a LOT of those. You can’t swing a dead cat these days without hitting a “VOIP expert on a PrimRose Path”.
Look, It CAN be done. It CAN work. But you need extra stuff, like the right router, switch, hubs and all that jazz, not to mention, the right brainpower setting it up.
Real Brain Power Costs Real Money.
And what do you gain? nada. You eliminate the use of one jack that is already installed in your office wall and working properly, but it “sounds cool”, so it is used as a “feature selling point” by bad sales people.
The letters VOIP make it sound sophisticated, which equates into you thinking you own a better bit of hardware (which is actually the opposite), and it costs more.. you can do the math.
And please lord, don’t listen to anyone who utters the words “You can use any IP telephone you want! Check out this cool Cisco phone or this Cool Polycom Phone or this cool Snom phone or this cool 3com phone…” You are really asking for trouble now.
This means, exactly, that the phone system, and the telephone were never designed to “work together”. Someone, somewhere, hacked it to work, sort of.. maybe.. and you won’t know until you have used it for 60 days, that it sucks in its day to day use, and the guy who sold it to you just had his number disconnected..
It’s a horror story, trust me. I have overseen the the forklifting of hundreds of bad installs like this.
This is a one off “computer” that some guy, probably in another country, programmed to work with a third party telephone. And if they can’t make their OWN telephone, it’s got no business in your office. Trust me on this.
PHONE SYSTEM TO IP TELEPHONE LINE
This is the situation where the business owner wants to save money on their phone lines.
There are only few reasons why you might want to do this.
A) You have 80 offices worldwide. You do a lot of long distance calling between offices. You might also want to centralize automation. OK, makes sense why IP phone lines would save you a TON of cash, and the cost of implementing outweighs the costs of the long distance bills.
B) You are a small business, strapped for cash so bad to where a $400 dollar phone bill hurts. You consider switching to IP telephone lines as a savings. If this is the case, forget it. It will take you years to make back the cost of correct implementation, and you should concentrate more on making an extra $400 per month from your business. It’s not that hard.
C) You heard this as a “buzzword” from someone like cBeyond or Logix in a sales pitch regarding why their service is different or better than AT&T. But no super savings here.
This is a complex issue folks, which is why you need someone like me giving you GOOD advice.
I’ll have to break this down a little further for you. It even makes MY eyes glaze over and roll into the back of my head.
When it comes to IP phone lines, you are going to find two types.
- Open Internet
- Protected Paths
Open internet is just that. You either transfer your phone numbers or you get new numbers from an IP phone line service provider. Exactly the way Vonage works for the home user.
Vonage issues you a new phone number and then mails you a “vonage box”, which is just an ATA or Analog Terminal Adapter.
The ATA connects to the open internet on one side, and connects to your phone on the other side. The phone is your “terminal”.
The ATA is preprogrammed to “phone home”. It uses the open internet to find Vonages servers in Canada or where ever they are, and let’s it know it is online, and active.
Then, when anyone dials the phone number they issued you, the calls comes into Vonage first. Vonage sees the call and the number dialed, it then “pushes” that phone call from their servers, to your ATA… over the internet. The ATA receives the signal and then translates it into a typical 90 volt analog signal that your telephone is designed to receive.
The Analog Terminal Adapter ADAPTS their signal to your ANALOG TERMINALS (termination point.. analog telephone) receiving signal.s
This is the most basic, simplified way I know of putting it. And in this simple format, ugly heads rear.
First and foremost, the “open” internet is a wilderness. Your phone calls are at the mercy of every single computer, from them to you. It travels through countless networks that do not belong to you, nor them, and are completely out of yours and the providers control.
Think about every time you load a webpage. You decide to visit http://www.ilovehamsters.com or whatever. The webpage you have asked for lives on a server in Maine. You are in New Mexico. The Maine server sends it to next computer in line on its way to New Mexico and could travel across hundreds of networks to finally reach Comcast, near you, and then Comcast delivers it to your computer.
And how many times has a site like http://www.ilovehamsters.com been slow to load, doesn’t load, loads funny or has been hijacked? Mind you that the networks you receive that website through are “optimized” for webpages, but are probably not optimized for delicate voice traffic, which must be protected to keep other traffic from making it “blip”.
Well that is the same thing you are asking your phone calls to do.
Sound fun? Not to me. My business calls are important.
Now, that being said… are there “business class services” that are better than others?
YES. www.flowroute.com is the only one I would even consider. But just know, for this level of service, the kind that actually work wells, it costs more, and better, more expensive hardware is needed, and flow route ain’t gonna provide it. You gotta buy it, but listen, it does work pretty well. They cater to the client who is willing to go through the hassle and pony up the effort and dollars.
Protected paths are, well.. protected. This is the type of service provided by companies such as cBeyond and Logix. (on a side note, I have never been a fan of cBeyond’s business tactics, contracts or practices. I much prefer Logix)
ON another side note, I have a great contact inside Logix, who has been grand to all of my customers. Call me at 281-894-6606, and I will hook you up with a bead on a better price.
In this type of installation, Logix, let’s say, will have an office in your local city… say Downtown Houston.
Logix will have already installed their own equipment inside every single AT&T Hub in the city, and every AT&T Hub is near someones office.
Logix then leases a copper wire from the AT&T Hub nearest your office. They pay AT&T to run that copper wire into your office, and they pay AT&T to connect the other end of the copper wire to the equipment that Logix owns inside the AT&T hub.
Every hub is connected to every other hub, directly. So therefore, your office is now directly “path connected” to the Logix main offices in Downtown Houston.
Are you starting to see the light here?
So NEXT, Logix provides you with a rather expensive, but very viable, mega-ata, just off the other side of the AT&T provided copper wire.
So now, you have a direct connection from your office, through the copper wire (which is ONLY dedicated to you), to the hub, to the logix box there, from logix box to logix box to logix box all the way back to the Logix office, where they are again tied into the major fiber networks in the country.
A Protected path.
This works very well, but in small cases, it doesn’t really have any savings over just plain old AT&T copper lines. If you have 25 phone lines.. you can see “some” savings, but not anything like .15 cents, per line, per month.
HOSTED VOIP – The True Pain And Suffering
This is truly… like, the worst of the worst.
The saddest thing about these guys is that it is so easy for the them to prey upon you. They offer a combination of low price, ease of use, and installation, but nothing is ever that easy .. is it?
This is the situation where a group of guy-nerds have programmed a Cisco box to “act and behave” like a phone system. Then they “rent” you the use of this “phone system”.
Now, the phone system they are renting you, they are also renting to as many other companies as possible… I mean… the name of the game is “get as much residual income as possible, so the owner can chill on a beach while that fat check rolls in”, right?
Also, the phone system they are renting you is probably not located in Kalamazoo, where you are, so guess what they use to pass your phone calls to you?
The Open Internet.
Also, they use “third party” telephones. Yay.
So it goes something like this.
1) You call them and some slick sales guy fills you full of shit about how great they are, simple to use, cheap and all that jazz.
2) You pay them a fat signup fee and sign a two year contract with a nasty “I Quit” clause.
3) You purchase a load of “Cisco” phones from them at like.. $200 bucks a pop or whatever.
4) You TRANSFER YOUR PHONE NUMBERS TO THEM – The scariest part, because they are under no obligation to give them back. They aren’t a registered cLec, are they??
5) It takes you about 90 days worth of frustration to figure out that their customer support department is 3 guys in India at $4 dollars per hour, that their voice quality blows, that phone calls drop all the time, and that you have to pay $400 dollars to “quit”, and that you have to play nuclear war to get your phone numbers back on AT&T.
Sound like fun? Not to me! My phone calls are too important.
At the end of the day. 17 Years I have been selling phone systems.. you wanna know who I use? Birch or Logix, through straight up protected service. It never fails, never gives me any grief, and I am ok with that.
It allows me the time to write rants like this instead of wondering why my calls dropped.
NEXT STEPS ↓
This Post Was Written By Jay Harper, He is a 17 year expert in business phone systems for offices, restaurants, real estate offices, tire shops, printers, doctors, even chemical plants. He has personally overseen the installation of thousands of phone systems during his tenure; from small to massive, the reasoning is same in every case.
He has developed a “30 Minute, Get All Of Your Questions Answered Now Tune Up Session”, which we conduct over the telephone with you and any other top staff you need involved. Here is what we accomplish together in this fast-paced, zero-nonsense session:
- Your “Real” Needs: You would think technology might make your decision making easier, but that is not the case. Phone systems for businesses have become even MORE complicated than ever and there are a ton of “sharleton” manufacturers with an even larger force of “sharleton” sales people, all trying to convince you about “features” you don’t need, including VOIP. One mis-step here can literally tank your business when your communications system fails or overloads your employees or finishes off your credit line trying to get it going. We’ll walk through your actual needs easily and quickly.
- How Much Is It Going To Cost: Lying awake at night worried about maxxing out that line of credit for a phone system is absurd. The goal of most sales-people, particularly in technology, is to use your lack of knowledge to extract as much of that line of credit as you can stand. I will never do this to you. I will outline the exact cost to get things done quickly and effeciently but without cutting corners or amuptating a limb. We’ll work through this together and by the end of our phone call, you will feel empowered and informed, not confused.
- Pitfalls To Avoid: We will hash through all of the areas of danger that drain money from your company either through ineffeciency, dropped calls, lost business, outages, breakages or just plain old confusing your employees! I want to help your business, not hurt it.
The “30 Minute, Get All Of Your Questions Answered Now Tune Up Session” is conducted by Jay Harper, the principle of Tele Technology. He has worked with over 2000 small businesses and corporations here in Houston, many of which you have heard of. Please be assured that this consultation will not be a thinly disguised sales presentation; it will consist of the best intelligence Mr. Harper can supply in a 30 minute time span. There is no charge for this call, but please be advised that the call is strictly limited to 30 minutes.
This consult will typically take place within 1 to 2 days of your call. To secure a time for this consultation, please call Kayla Davis at 281-894-6606 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and she will adivse you regarding available time slots. She will also provide you with a pre-consultation questinnaire that will prepare both you and us to get maximum value in the shortest amount of time.