Have you thrown away your fax machine yet? There are so many great services out there today that the need for a traditional fax machine is no longer necessary.
For the last 4 years my fax number has also been my home telephone number. On Monday-Friday during business hours when you called our home you received a fax tone delivered by my HP all in one fax/scanner and copier. This drove my wife nuts! So this morning we had it out and I ended up getting an efax type of service from one of the online providers. I now have a toll free number to give my customers should they ever need to fax a document to me. From now on if you call the Thonus household at 10:00 am Monday through Friday you’ll get a voice mail asking you to leave a message. I usually don’t answer the home phone since I don’t ever get calls on the home phone. This also really get’s under my wife’s skin. But I’ll maybe cover this in another post.
If a study was done today, I would guess that the American business community probably scans and e-mails more documents then faxes. Amy Henst states in her April 2010 blog that faxes are more secure than e-mail for quite a few reasons. For fun, take a look at the comments to her blog – there are a lot of people that hate fax machines! Here’s sort of a funny blog – “Why I hate fax machines”. There are more than 1,600 people that like Facebook page - “I hate when my parents take away my fax machine”. This is a very funny spoof on the box. Sascha Segan had it right a few years ago when he wrote his PC Mag article titled “Death to the Fax Machine”.
In any event, my hatred of the fax machine really started this morning when my wife got testy with me about the fact that I still used an older style traditional fax machine. Case closed!
If you’re a small to medium sized business looking for options to replace your traditional fax machine, contact a carrier agnostic agency today to inquire about your options.
Has your definition of service changed with regard to your Internet and phone services over the last 10 years?
I had an interesting discussion with a friend a few weeks ago about customer expectations for voice quality. He told me that with the use of cell phones and VoIP services most people don’t care as much about solid, clean sounding and reliable phone service as they once did. He said, “if you’re disconnected, just call back – not a big deal”. I had to agree with him. It’s been quite a while since anyone’s called me to say that they had crackling sounds on their phone. Usually if you get a bad connection, you hang up and redial. The days of ongoing, and recurring back round noise are gone. In the late 80′s and much of the 90′s when many of the carriers were upgrading their networks, random noises, echos and crackling were common place.
How good your service works is key, but how’s the customer service you get for these services – do you think anything’s changed in the last 10 years with this? As a business owner, I am continually bombarded with offers for higher speed Internet and new phone service. 99% of the time this gets thrown in the trash. The services I now have at my office have been in place for more than 4 years. The bill is automatically paid via credit card each and every month. I haven’t had to make a service call for my Internet or phone service in that same period of time. How about you? I truly believe that most businesses are exactly the same. The only time they really look or think about who they use and work with for their voice and data service is when their contracts expire and need to be renewed or grown. Do you like the people you work with when you go through this renewal process? Are they making suggestions to upgrade your service and give you a better price, or just renewing what you already have? These are things you want to consider as you begin this process.
One belief that I have is that every business owner needs a phone person in their contact list – someone you trust, someone that can advise and steer you in the right direction with your carrier and product selection and help you make the best decisions for your business. Just like you need a banker, an insurance person and an accountant that you trust – make sure you have an IT/phone person you can trust. The service and loyalty you’ll receive from this person will be much higher than if you worked with different people every time you need help. Business relationships matter! Nothing is worse than going to tier I toll free support when you have an issue. Check out a carrier agnostic firm as they’ll have no alliances to any one particular carrier and will be looking out for your best interest.
Who’s your phone person? Who’s that person that’s there each and every time you need help, or need advice on what to do? That’s the person you should be working with. Give them your business and get the level of service you deserve.
In this morning’s Denver Post, John Malone, chairman of Colorado-based Liberty Media said, “Cable has come through technologically in great shape relative to its competitors. The telcos, unless they’re willing to spend a massive amount of capital – like (Verizon Communications’) Fios has – have run out of steam in terms of the speed of their Internet capabilities. The real issue, I think, for cable right now, at least in the US is regulatory. John is clearing talking about the residential market here, but cable companies like Comcast have definitely begun to stir the pot when it comes to high bandwidth Internet service in the commercial space also.
Mr. Malone goes on to state in this article that it is entirely feasible that government may choose to open these networks up and could possibly tell the cable operators that they can no longer bundle video, broadband Internet and phone service together. With the potential merger between Comcast and NBC there will clearly be additional discussion about this in many circles.
For those of us in the technology community the discussion constantly comes up – is Comcast or the other cable providers a better option for my business vs. going with a traditional telecom company like Qwest, AT&T and Verizon or even CLECs like XO, Integra or CBeyond? My answer was clear in the early days – I would never have suggested it. Run your voice over a cable network – are you crazy? Today, we’ve seen many single location businesses take advantage of Comcast for their voice and Internet needs. Occasionally they might even opt to get a video connection and place a few TV sets in their lobby for guests to few CNBC or FOX News. For a small business it’s really not a bad option to consider. For mid size and larger multi location companies I don’t think they’re the best fit as WAN concerns need to be taken into consideration.
If your business if evaluating options for your voice and data service, get with a carrier agnostic agency to help you review all of the options available.
We’re approaching our one year blog anniversary and thought it would be a good time to highlight a few of our favorites. Many of our readers are looking for answers about different solutions….browse below:
* SIP Trunking – what is it and who can help provide answers?
* Carrier Agnostic Telecommunication Agencies – what advantages are there for working with these guys over going directly to the carrier rep?
* The Missing Link – if you don’t want a T-1, but need more than a DSL, what are your options?
* Get a telecom Tune-up. When is the last time you evaluated your voice and data network?
* Why is TW Telecom worth a look? Ethernet deals galore….check up for newest offerings.
* Internet Access – Have you been looking to increase your bandwidth?
* Thoughts on WAN – Have you been considering an MPLS or ethernet solution for your office to office connections?
* How can you find the best carrier to work with? Is AT&T, Qwest, and Level 3 the best choice for you or is a solution from XO Communications, Comcast, Integra, Paetec or Telesphere a better option?
* VoIP – Integrated T-1 Service – Is this for your company and which is the best carrier to go to for this service?
* Classics – analog lines, and conference calling – Every company needs at least one POTs line for their alarm line. When’s the last time you used or priced conference calling? There are many options for both of these classic offerings.
Every once in a while one of our customers will ask, “what’s the best of the best”? Are you done with your T-1 network? Are you done with your microwave WAN? You need to get educated on big, fat pipe ethernet connectivity. MOE or Metro Optical Ethernet has been around for a number of years but only now seems to be gaining huge traction in the business community for site to site and Internet connectivity.
I am amazed at how many 20-30 employee companies still use DSL or cable for their Internet connectivity. In addition to using ethernet between your offices you should consider using ethernet to the Internet too. My rule of thumb for Internet use is this:
* 1-4 users, go with DSL or Cable Internet connection
* 5-15 users, go with Cable or a T-1 to the Internet
* 16-24 users, go with 3.0 Mb or 4.5 Mb bonded Internet or begin looking at 10 Mb ethernet connectivity.
* 25 and up on total users you have to be into an ethernet connection. With this many regular, daily Internet users in your office you’ll need a fat pipe to get your work done.
With the many applications that businesses tie into today, scaling the pipes between your offices and the pipe to the Internet is critical. Making the wrong decisions on this could make or break a quarter, and maybe a year for some businesses. Clearly the scale I gave above will vary a bit depending upon the type of business you’re in, but it’s a great place to start for most businesses.
Some of the groups you’ll want to consider for this type of offering are:
* Qwest QMOE offers many options to fit your budget and your bandwidth requirements.
* AT&T offers a wide variety of ethernet in the states that they service.
* XO Communications - One of the few CLEC’s that are beginning to master EoC (Ethernet over Copper) as a viable and well priced offering.
For additional information on WANs – here’s a post from earlier this year. For additional questions about how ethernet can rock your connectivity, contact a carrier agnostic agency today.
Which do you use? Which do you like? Some small businesses use DSL and some use a cable solution (like Comcast’s).
DSL is tricky – there are times that it is extremely good, and times when it’s not. Placing a service onto 100 year old copper lines and expecting it to work flawlessly is a difficult thing. Fios is Verizon’s answer to this – at least for many of the home users in its region. See a cute Fios video here. It’s my understanding that if you’re a business that happens to be in the way of Fios (between two neighborhoods) you can also take advantage of the new fiber infrastructure. In the 14 state region of Qwest’s, you’re out of luck. To my knowledge they never developed and marketed a product like Fios. Hopefully with the Qwest / Centurylink merger, small business and home users in that 14 state territory will see some new product sets to fill this gap. Running their service over a new fiber infrastructure when it makes sense will draw in more loyal business and consumer customers.
It’s my experience that Comcast is a great alternative – when you can get them. Their infrastructure is relatively new compared with telephony alternatives so the possibility of downtime is minimal in most cases. The fact that they continue pushing out greater and greater bandwidth alternatives to their existing base of consumer and business customers is amazing. For small business customers you can now get 25 Norton Security licenses for free as part of your service. Along with that they’ll throw in some productivity tools from Microsoft. Check out promos here.
So my advice to Comcast is to expand your footprint so that more small businesses can take advantage of your service!
My advice to Qwest/Centurylink is to expand your product offering for consumers and small business customers! Push your fiber out to the home and industrial complexes more.
Sometimes it seems like there are way too many choices. If you do your homework and talk with some of your neighbors or fellow business people you should be able to make the best choice for yourself.
It’s unusual that I’ll write a post about a single carrier – but I thought it made sense since Telesphere was doing a few things better than all of the others. They are better at providing a hosted phone solution that anyone else out there.
If your organization has between 5-75 employees they present a nice bundle that includes, phone equipment, phone service, and Internet service all in one. Taken directly from their website below is a definition of Hosted VoIP – (their sweet spot):
Hosted VoIP is an advanced technology that allows your business to have phone service without the phone system. Instead of purchasing and maintaining a PBX phone system that sits in your office, you connect to a powerful nationwide platform hosted by Telesphere. With hosted VoIP, you can resign the hassles of confusing phone systems and multiple vendors to history, giving you time and capital to focus on the future of your business.
The benefits of the Telesphere solution are simple:
No upfront capital costs
Single provider with 24/7 live support
Private, dedicated, secure VoIP connection
Nationwide IP MPLS network reach
Straightforward flat-rate per-seat pricing
If you own a business with 10 locations around the country it has (historically) been a nightmare coordinating phones and phone and Internet service. Most companies had multiple phone companies, a different equipment vendor in each city – and God knows what the remote offices/stores were doing for Internet. Because Telesphere has national reach you can now use them nationwide for each of your offices. One throat to choke – really! Check out this quick video if you want to learn more.
If you own a single location business, a Telesphere offering will still give you just one throat to choke and provide you with a single point of contact for your equipment+phone and Internet service - not a bad way to go. Don’t you have enough things to think about when you open a new office? What do you think? Have you had experience with these guys? Find a carrier agnostic agency to help you with this offering or to discuss whatever other options you might be looking for.
I recieved a funny list in an e-mail from a sibling and found it very interesting so I’m reposting it here for my blog audience. I’d give credit to the individual who created it, but I have no idea. I hope you enjoy this list as much as I did. Because this is a business blog I will rarely post private pictures – but this is one of my favorites of me and the kids.
Truths For Mature Humans
1. I think part of a best friend’s job should be to immediately clear
your computer history if you die.
2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you
realize you’re wrong.
3. I totally take back all those times I didn’t want to nap when I was
4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.
5. How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?
6. Was learning cursive really necessary?
7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on # 5. I’m pretty
sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.
8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the
9. I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t at least kind of tired.
10. Bad decisions make good stories.
11. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work
when you know that you just aren’t going to do anything productive for
the rest of the day.
12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I
don’t want to have to restart my collection…again.
13. I’m always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me
if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I
swear I did not make any changes to.
14. “Do not machine wash or tumble dry” means I will never wash this -
15. I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Dang
it!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to
voice mail. What did you do after I didn’t answer? Drop the phone and
16. I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not
seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.
17. I keep some people’s phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to
answer when they call.
18. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.
19. I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or
Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lite than Kay.
20. I wish Google Maps had an “Avoid Ghetto” routing option.
21. Sometimes, I’ll watch a movie that I watched when I was younger and
suddenly realize I had no idea what the heck was going on when I first
22. I would rather try to carry 10 over-loaded plastic bags in each hand
than take 2 trips to bring my groceries in.
23. The only time I look forward to a red light is when I’m trying to
finish a text.
24. I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and
25. How many times is it appropriate to say “What?” before you just nod
and smile because you still didn’t hear or understand a word they said?
26. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up
to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers
27. Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get
dirty, and you can wear them forever.
28. Is it just me or do high school kids get dumber & dumber every year?
29. There’s no worse feeling than that millisecond you’re sure you are
going to die after leaning your chair back a little too far.
30. As a driver I hate pedestrians, and as a pedestrian I hate drivers,
but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate bicyclists.
31. Sometimes I’ll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still
not know what time it is.
32. Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car
keys in a pocket, finding their cell phone, and Pinning the Tail on the
Donkey – but I’d bet my ass everyone can find and push the snooze button
from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every
33. And becasue this is a telecommunications and IT blog, don’t forget to get with your favorite carrier agnostic agent for a tune up.
It’s great having choices, but many times it seems like there are too many choices. If you’re a business owner or executive tasked with opening a new office, the decision and choices that need to be made about phones, phone lines and Internet service is a headache. Here are a few ideas to consider before you head down this road:
1st you need to determine how many voice lines you’ll need. Most in our industry use a 2:1 or 3:1 ration of people to lines. In other words if you have 10 employees working in your office, you’ll want 4-5 voice lines. If you have 20 employees you’ll want about 10-12 lines etc…. Some might confuse voice lines with phones. Keep in mind that it’s not a bad idea to have a phone in the waiting area of your office for your patrons to use, or in the lunch room. This being the case, you might actually end up having 12-14 phones if you have 10 employees. It’s doubtful that everyone in your company will be on the phone at the exact same time – unless you’re a telemarketing group or call center business. This is boring stuff to most of us, until you’re the one tasked with having to set this up. Then you need some serious help! No one wants to make a stupid, expensive wrong decision about these things.
On this front you can decide to go with a more traditional set up (the classics) that would include separate voice lines and a DSL for Internet – companies that would offer this would be, Qwest, AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast. The other option is to look at Integrated T-1′s or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) T-1 service. With this service both your voice lines and your Internet access is delivered over a T-1 or business-class facility. These take a while to install (30-60 days) compared to a traditional setup (10-14 days), but tend to have a lot of flexibility. Companies to consider for this service are: XO Communications, Qwest, Integra, and Paetec.
Next, figure out (on average) how many of your employees will spend time on the Internet? What types of sites will they visit, or maybe better, what types of sites do you want them to visit? Many employers have strict firewall policies about this as the sites most of us want to visit are generally very bandwidth intensive – but this is for another blog posting. If you’re a doctors office, or an architecture firm you may be sending very large files via e-mail so you’ll want to take this into consideration. In most cases if you make a wrong decision about your Internet bandwidth, the carrier you’re working with is more than willing to increase the size of this pipe. Generally they are not big fans of reducing your bandwidth without some sort of penalty – so be careful here. For more on Internet, go here.
There are many options for Internet access – above I discuss differences between a traditional vs. an Integrated Access set up. There are arguments for and against each of these, but in general this is my opinion: If your office is small and you’re on a small budget, go with a traiditional setup of voice lines and a DSL. This will be less expensive and you’ll be able to get things in place quicker. If you have 10 or more employees and you’re quite sure things will ramp up over the next year take a serious look at an Integrated T-1. If you need more voice lines in the future it’s easy for the carrier to turn these up quickly. T-1′s tend to be more and better monitored than POTs lines (Plain Old Telephone Service) by the carriers. Often if there’s a problem with your service the carrier knows about it before you do – this is not the case with plain old service.
As for phones, one can go in numerous directions depending upon budget. If you’re working on a shoe string consider getting something from one of the office stores (Office Max – Best Buy), then work with your carrier to make sure the proper features are part of the offering so that these basic phones will work properly. Over the next few years you can consider upgrading to something more robust when the need for additional phones exceeds your existing system. Another option here would be to go to E-Bay and buy a system thats 2-3 years old. The software release would most likely be outdated, but at least you would have a business class solution until you were ready to make a larger/newer investment. If it’s only 2-3 years old you should be able to find a company locally that will help you install & maintain it. If you have the budget for a new system talk to the individuals supporting you with your Internet and phone service – generally they’ll have a couple groups for you to consider. Confirm with the local BBB and always check references before you move forward with a vendor.
ALL IN ONE SOLUTIONS
Telesphere offers a hosted phone solution that we believe is fantastic. They’ll provide you a true one stop solution for your new single location business or all of your offices nationwide. All handsets and features would be the same nationwide and you’ll have one bill for all of your voice, data and equipment. Check them out here.
Ultimately there are many choices, but if one takes the time to research the various options available you should be on track to business success. Get with a carrier agnostic agency for help. These groups have relationships with all of the carriers, they’ll be the best group to assist you or give your company a tune up.
What image do you come up with when you think of the term “classic”?
In the telecom world, the classics are POTs lines or plain old telephone analog service and business lines, Long Distance and conferencing. How often do you use these services? I think most business professionals forgot that this is the basis of what they use every single day. I know that most companies today use VoIP, SIP and T-1′s for their voice and data, but there are still millions of businesses in the USA that use 3-4 business phone lines and plain-Jane long distance for state to state calls. Last I checked, DSL is a booming product set for the big three (AT&T, Qwest and Verizon). The classic set up for small business today is a few analog phone lines + a DSL line.
Analog Business Phone Lines
Many of the carriers have stopped selling analog phone lines and DSL. The Big 3 LECs (Local Exchange Carriers) have to continue selling this service due to demand. On the business side of things the profit margins for these lines must be huge. Those same large carriers are attempting to get these customers onto their VoIP T-1 offerings, but they still have many customers on the “classic” offerings. The copper they ride has been in the ground forever, and usually once they’re in place, they just hum along day after day. I have peers that have attempted to go wireless 100% for their companies, but the problem comes down to wireless reception. Is your reception outstanding in your office? If your office is downtown in your chosen city, maybe it is good enough to rely on, but for those of us that are 20 or even 40 miles outside of the city center we live near you might be out of luck and still need your business land line to insure call quality.
When people think of conference calling they usually think of being in one room with 10 other people, not able to hear what the other person is saying from a single speakerphone on the table. In the early days of my sales career this technology was nerve racking – if you weren’t within 4 feet of the handset and speaker phone on these nationwide sales conference calls you missed parts of the conversation – and sometimes this came back to bite you. Have you ever been on a conference call where backround noise and discussions ruined a presentation? If you can’t mute all lines with the exception of the moderator, or at least follow the call on a web portal so that you can mute the “idiot”, then you shouldn’t host a conference call with more than 5 people – EVER!
Most of the carriers offer conference calling options, but for better rates you might look at some of the companies that have made conferencing their specialty: The Conference Group, or ReadyTalk. Often your carrier agnostic communications agency will have offers which include voice, data, plus a certain number of long distance and conferencing minutes included. You might want to check these offers out first.
Classics can be beautiful and sometimes are just what the Doctor ordered.