Thursday, May 30, 2013

Work Smarter, Not Harder with Business VoIP

Thanks to VoIP technology, customers have more options now than ever before when it comes to choosing a powerful and cost efficient phone service. Business VoIP offers a wide range of powerful calling features that can even make the smallest business look bigger and sound more professional overnight.

Your needs, budget, and company size will dictate which business VoIP service is best suited for your unique needs. In the end, it comes down to either hosted PBX or an on-premises SIP compliant IP phone system with SIP service.

An effective phone system will meet both your current and future needs, and grow as you grow. Before deciding on a business VoIP service, be sure to ask yourself a few important questions.

1. Which best describes your phone system project?

A. Installing a new phone system
B. Replacing an existing phone system
C. Upgrading an existing phone system
D. I like my phone system, but not my phone and/or Internet/data bills

2. What features do you want in your phone system?

Read more (download entire e-book instantly)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Traditional Telecom Clouds SIP’s Simplicity

With traditional offices, you have to navigate the costly and time-consuming  process of setting up 30-60 days before you can configure and use your phone system.  With SIP trunking, setting up phone service is easy and only takes 1-3 days. 

Why SIP makes sense.
With SIP, you can provision customer trunks in minutes rather than weeks.  You don’t have to deal with a local exchange telephone company, extraordinary lead times, poor customer service and lack of flexibility and responsiveness.

However, for those folks who have been in the telecom and IT sector for a long time and who are used to a traditional way of setting up phone service/system, SIP can be a scary little word. It actually seems to repulse the most established telecom aficionados. But, I assure you, SIP is MUCH easier than you think, and I will prove it.

It’s simple, it works! It saves time, money and it’s easy.  
People just starting in telecom have the home court advantage when it comes toSIP.That is because their brains haven’t been hard- wired to think in terms of traditional telecom (POTS lines/PRIs), which can be rather complex and time consuming.   So having 10 years+ experience in the telecom industry actually puts you at a disadvantage. You have to re-train the way your brain thinks when it comes to SIP. But once you do, you and your customers will be grateful. Trust me! 

Think about the steps needed to set-up a traditional land line with long distance (POTS).  
  • First, you are limited to what local providers you can use
  • And then once you determine the local provider to work with, you need to schedule installation of the local POTS line(where someone has to physically connect on-site / activate phone lines)
  • Then you must coordinate with the LEC to change the PICC to a 4 digit carrier code for thelong distance carrier, while at the same time making sure that all PICC freezes have been removed. 
  • To determine pricing, you have to incorporate line charges, usage rates, PICC, and EUCL fees.
If you can understand all of that, than you are a seasoned telecom professional and you are probably frustrated with SIP. 

Okay, let’s start with the basics. 

An IP address is the backbone of SIP. And don’t worry what the IP address technically does, just understand that it’s an address that represents you, or in this case, your phone system within the Internet.  If it’s a public IP address, it’s where you can be reached over the public Internet.  If it’s private, then it can only be reached over a private network, like MPLS or private LAN.  To setup a SIP connection between two parties, each party loads the other’s phones system’s IP address in to each other’s phone system and plugs it into their Internet connection (if public) and then, well, that’s it. To setup service with a carrier, a customer will exchange IP addresses with the carrier, plug in their Internet and test.   The SIP trunk is now born…

A SIP trunk is a virtual circuit.  What the heck is that??  Since there is no physical connection that represents the SIP trunk other than the Ethernet cord plugged into the phone system, it’s hard for us to get past the “what the heck is it” stage.   The best way to explain it is to tell you how it’s bound. Well, to compare to traditional services, standard PRIs are physical trunks made up of 23 call paths or DS0s or B channels (ugh).  Consider SIP trunks as that same type of connection made up of a preset number of call paths that you can make calls out and receive calls via DIDs.  The difference is that SIP trunks can allow thousands or tens of thousands of calls simultaneously.   What binds a SIP trunk is not the physical nature like that which limits PRIs, but instead is bound by Internet availability, phone system capacity, and carrier set predetermined limits.   Since each active call sucks up Internet (40-80 KBPS per active call), you can only have as many calls active as you have bandwidth available.  Your phone system also may have limits for various reasons that would only allow a certain amount of active calls. But the most important defining characteristic of a SIP trunk is the preset number of call paths the carrier assigns to the trunk group.  If a carrier only allows for 10 concurrent calls, the 11th simultaneous call is going to fail.

What is needed to make SIP trunking work?  You need a SIP compatible phone system, or a gateway that converts SIP into traditional services, bandwidth and a proven carrier?

If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please contact me, Max, at

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Getting the Best Deal in Telecom

Cutting costs has become a major priority, especially in today’s economy. If you haven’t done so already, one way to easily cut costs is to revisit your telecommunication expenses.  Telecommunication expenses can be anything from telephone expenses to Internet connectivity to equipment.  If your contract with your current telecom provider is about to expire, you should take this opportunity to re-evaluate your expenses. 

60-90 days prior to the expiration of your contract(s), reach out to your current vendor(s) to see if you can negotiate reduced pricing. If you cannot, you should consider looking for a new one altogether. You want to make sure you have enough time to evaluate each new vendor and their rates for services without feeling pressured. Remember, if you do decide to switch carriers, you will most likely have to provide notice of termination to your current vendor. 

Before you begin, make sure you have the following information available and are also familiar with it.

1.  When does your contract expire? As mentioned above, you want to start your process about 2-3 months before your contract expires. This will help you get the most price reductions. It may be a bit difficult to get a provider to reduce charges during a contract term, but as you get closer to the end of your contract term they may be more willing to negotiate rates to keep you as a customer.

2. Does the contract auto-renew, and for what term? Is important to know if your contract has an auto-renewal clause and what it entails. The auto-renewal could be short term, such as month-to-month, but it can also renew at whatever the initial term was.  If you do choose to change providers, be sure you fully understand the auto-renew policy in your contract to avoid early termination fees.

3. What services are you currently purchasing, and from how many providers? When speaking with your current vendor(s) you want to have some understanding of what you services you are subscribed to and whom you are purchasing from. Many times you can get all your telecom services from one vendor and at a discounted rate.

4. What are you currently paying today for your services (this includes fees and surcharges)? When seeking a reduction in costs, you have to know where you are starting from. In addition to the actual price for a particular service, it is important to consider what additional fees and surcharges you are paying as well. What you are saving in price with one vendor you could be paying in surcharges and fees, and as a result, making the overall cost more.  If you are unsure of a fee or surcharge, ask your vendor.

5. Do you need to keep all the services? Have a look and make sure that you need everything you have.  There may be services that you no longer need and can cancel. Any good provider will offer you a free analysis of your business needs. 

6. Do you need additional services, or need to change the type of service you have? One service to look at is Internet bandwidth and making the move from switched to dedicated services.  With the growth of IP, have a look to see if you need to upgrade your bandwidth.  Contract renewal time is always a good time for an upgrade; vendors like to see this type of growth.  If your business has grown and you currently have switched services, you may want to consider switching from switched services to dedicated services.  Dedicated services, even though they have an access MRC, tend to have lower rates.
Once you have gathered all of your information, your first step would be to contact your sales representative from you current vendor.  If you are unsure of who your sales representative is, or how to contact them, you can contact customer service.   

Once you have reached the appropriate person, explain to that them that you would like to discuss renewing your contract and you are also looking to reduce your currently monthly spend.  They may ask how much you are looking to reduce your cost by, so be prepared with an answer.  If you are not sure, asking for 10% - 20% reduction would be a good place to start.

The sales rep may ask what term you are looking to sign for.  Normally, the longer contract you are willing to agree to, the better pricing you will be able to get.  If you believe that in the short term, you are going to need to order additional services, even if they are with another provider, you should discuss that with them as well.  

After your current vendor has given you some information, take time to evaluate it.  If you are not happy with what they have given, see if they can do anything more.  You can also start to price out competitors to see if they can beat your current vendor’s price. Don’t forget to consider fees and surcharges.

When contacting a new potential vendor, make sure you have all your information, including copies of your previous bills.  The more information you can give a potential vendor the better they can understand what you need, and therefore can put together their best offer.

The key to getting the best deal is to simply ask.  It never hurts to ask about a rate, charge, surcharge or fee.  The worse thing they can say is no, but you may be surprised on how often they say yes.