Today is the first day of spring and I thought I’d share these interesting links:
1.) Top 10 things to do in Spring – Ezine Articles gives some great practicle ides.
2.) If you’re looking for some trust this spring, read this.
3.) Activity Village – If you have kids at home check this site out for some great spring ideas.
4.) All small business owners should understand the benefits of an integrated T-1 this spring.
5.) Here’s 101 Nature Oriented things to do this spring - I think my son and I will go looking for insect pupae next week.
6.) Count your blessings this spring, you never know when you might wake up with a headache.
7.) Spring Cleaning - what to do with Grandma’s fur coat – enough said.
8.) If you need larger Internet service this spring – read this.
9.) Spring Break Destinations – Go here for some ideas…..
10.) If your business is looking at SIP this spring – read this.
11.) Spring Gardening Guide - If you have a green thumb and need to get that yard in shape, check this out.
12.) Voice and data spring clean-up. Get a spring tune-up.
As a WAN technology it seems that the curtains are beginning to close on frame relay.
Qwest Communications recently eliminated it’s promotions on this technology – making the cost of frame relay almost cost prohibitive for customers. Today you can get an MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) T-1 with a new programmed Adtran router, installed (or delivered to you for a self – plug and play install at the very least) for about the same price as you can get a frame relay T-1 (no router). This was bound to happen, as many companies have already migrated their frame relay networks over to the newer MPLS networks over the last 4-5 years.
With many now using IP PBX phone systems the requirement of a packet switched network with prioritized label capabilities has been essential to running voice as an application on the network. There are many providers of IP PBX solutions, here’s one I like in the Rocky Mt. Region. Another option is to look at a hosted IP PBX from Teleshere. For those of you that read the first sentence in this paragraph and shook your head, it’s OK – it’s taken me 20+ years to grasp some of this stuff. If you ever want to have fun take a look at all of the crazy terms in Newton’s Telecom Dictionary. All the acronyms will make your head spin. The telecommunications and IT industry are number one when it comes to acronym use – it’s really another language.
If you have a frame relay network it might be time to analyze and compare cost. It’s been my experience that when older technology begins to die, the support for those technologies dies with it. It’s no fun to be caught with an old network that’s not working – then when you need support the one person that gets it is on vacation. Get with a good carrier agnostic agency and begin the process to migrate away from Frame Relay - now’s the time!
Trust is a necessary thing in business. As business owners, we need to have trust in order to succeed.
Think about the last time you picked one vendor over another. Do you remember the reasons you went with one over the other? My guess is that “trust” had a play in your decision. Which vendor/company did you feel you could trust the most. Which one would treat your business as if it was their own? These are important questions to ask as we navigate decisions in our life.
How great is it for a business owner when there’s a trusted relationship with an insurance agent, Internet/IT/telephone service specialist, doctor, dentist, accountant, cleaning person, lawyer and banker? When these relationships are strong and in place the infrastructure for growth is stable and strong. It’s important to have experts in and around us to be successful. If you’ve ever hired someone on a whim and been badly disappointed this point can’t be made strongly enough. It’s not enough today to base our decisions on a single phone call, meeting, or a friend’s referral.
All industries have associations. If you’re getting ready to have brain surgery do some research to make sure the Doctor has all of the proper affiliations – confirm which hospitals the Doctor is associated with. If you’re going to evaluate the voice and data service for your business, see what the BBB (Better Business Bureau) has to say about the companies or consultants you’re evaluating. Are they part of CSIA (Colorado Technology Association) or the technology association in their respective state? What kind of online presence to they have? I have found that if a business takes care of their online presence this is usually a reflection of how they’ll take care of you and your business.
I believe that in order to find those individuals and companies that you trust you’ll have to first have a few bad experiences. My goal as a business owner is to do my research on the front end, check the things I need to check so that I minimize those bad experiences. Once you find that vendor or company that is the expert – trust them to do the right things to support you.
If you own a company or are responsible for managing the voice and data at your company, you have to know about the Integrated T-1. VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol circuits (also called Integrated T-1′s) are a great option for many small and medium sized businesses. Many have heard of getting a VoIP phone system, but how about a VoIP circuit? Different from a traditional configuration where you have 2 separate circuits, a T-1 to the Internet and a PRI T-1 for all of your voice traffic, a single VoIP T-1 can handle both your voice traffic and your Internet (data) traffic all with a single T. For those businesses that have many lines or need bigger pipes to the Internet, this type of service is offered from 1.5 Mb up to 10 Mb depening upon the carrier you get the service from.
Go here for additional explanation on VoIP. Many people don’t like Wikipedia but I think it’s quite valuable for those of us in technology. It seems that those contributing to the site in our industry are quite specific and detailed about the terms we use. I find them to be about 95% accurate with regard to the terms I’ve seen.
Here are a few reasons a business should go with this product for their voice and data service:
1.) Price is the first advantage of going this route. Where the traditional 2 circuit option will usually run about $800-1,200/month depending upon carrier, many offer their dynamic voice over IP T’s for under $600/month. You’ll have the option of ordering this service with either an analog or PRI interface. If you only need 4 lines you’ll go with the analog line option, but if you currently have a PRI voice T-1 with DID numbers, you’ll want to go with the PRI interface when you order a VoIP dynamic T-1.
2.) Convenience. Instead of having two circuits to manage, you’ll only manage a single circuit. One throat to choke often makes one’s life easier.
3.) Bundle is good and easy! Integrated T-1′s are usually offered as a bundle. You’ll get local, long distance, toll free and some form of web based management tool to control feature capability and gain access to bandwidth reports.
Above I mention “dynamic” T-1 a few times – I want to explain what that means, because VoIP T-1′s haven’t always been dynamic. When a carrier tells you that their service has this quality it means that whatever isn’t used for voice will automatically be available for data or Internet access. Each phone call will eat up a certain amount of bandwidth – multiple calls eat up more. The more voice calls are taking place the less bandwidth you have to get out to the Internet. As it should be, voice is always the priority. When this service first came out, these “fixed” T-1′s automatically had a certain amount of bandwidth carved out for voice and some carved out for data. Today that has changed, most all carriers now offer dynamic VoIP T’s.
Although many of the carriers today offer dynamic T-1′s (including the big guys) I’ve found that only a few are able to do a good job at providing these: XO Communications, Integra Telecom, and Paetec. Verizon, AT&T, and Qwest came into this game a bit late. I’ve found their VoIP offerings to work well once they’re installed, but there still seems to be pain on the front end to get these services into place. The CLECs have been provisioning these for more than 8 years so they really have it down. If you own a small or medium sized business or carry the responsibility for managing the voice and data service at your company, it’s worth your while to learn about VoIP Integrated T-1′s.
Why do some companies work with “x” carrier when they need a new phone or Internet service? Do you have a shortcut to help you with this?
I think that the reason business people work with a particular carrier when they need (Internet, conferencing, voice, or WAN) services has to do with relationship. I know as a business owner that it’s all about the person and my confidence in that individual. Even if I think that I might save 10-15% by taking the time to look elsewhere, time is money so I’ll usually go back to that same cell provider, same drycleaners, same carpet cleaner, same electronics/computer store sales person….because I know exactly what to expect. Wouldn’t it be great to have one place to go, a person or web portal that could list one or two, reliable and trustworthy vendors for whatever service I wanted?
As a proud BBB (Better Business Bureau) member I can tell you that these guys are getting close to providing this for us. When I’ve gone to their site and opted to do business with one of their accredited businesses, I have not gone wrong. Things change with vendors though over time. The first time you use them they’re great, then a year later you go to use them again and they stink. The same goes with telecom and Internet providers (carriers). If I’m in the market for a new 3.0 Mb or 10.0 Mb Internet connection, where can I go to find out which one of the providers is doing a good job? If you want to convert your old frame relay network to a new MPLS or ethernet WAN, what carriers have provisioning intervals down? Just like being able to visit the BBB site you need someone on the inside that works with these guys day in and day out. You need to work with a carrier agnostic group that works with all of the carriers and has their finger on the pulse of the industry.
In his book, “Be A Shortcut”, Scott Halford suggests that we all find what we do exceedingly well, and be the shortcut for others. In the same breath he says, “To be a Shortcut, you must have and use Shortcuts”. Use a carrier agnostic agency as your shortcut when you need to make the right decisions for your business.
I’m posting in a number of different locations on the web – here’s one I put up recently….
In my 20′s I heard someone say that a job was a temporary inconvenience until you find out what type of business you want to own and run yourself. That sort of stayed with me into my 30′s. After bouncing around with a few companies I realized that I had a real passion for the telecommunications vertical. I really enjoyed sitting down with a business owner or CIO and finding out what they liked and disliked about their voice, data, and WAN services. I was successful in my job(s) and found that I was good helping customers with this part of their business. I have many friends that are very successful in their jobs working for someone else – if that’s you, that’s great. Just don’t cheat yourself doing something you don’t love and have a passion for. After 6 years with the same company and about 12 years in the industry I almost got stuck, but something really crazy happened.
Sometimes when crazy things happen we all see the “short-term” crazy, not the long term crazy that an event might cause. I had a headache – a really bad headache. It was a Friday afternoon and my primary care doctor had already given me migraine medicine that did nothing – the headache was worse when I left his office. Three hours later the emergency room doctor said, “I think we should do a cat scan and see what’s going on”. At that point the little lady and I pretty much broke down thinking about all the possible things that might be causing my pain. I did what every responsible individual would do at that point – I called my boss and left her a lengthy voice mail explaining that she might not see me again – ever. Once they identified that I had a tumor in the third ventricle of my brain the surgeon asked if I wanted a scar that looked like a giant Band-Aid across the center of my head, or a clean cut from one ear to the other. Thanks Doc! 3 months later the headache and tumor were gone and I had recovered enough to go back to work. Although I was physically prepared to go back into the workplace, I wasn’t ready emotionally.
In the world of sales the beautiful people (usually) win. The really hard working, not so young and not so attractive people can make a living at sales, but it’s not always easy. It’s kind of like being a stripper. If you don’t have the goods maybe you should be working in the back! Thankfully in my industry we’re usually working with smart people that value knowledge and expertise above just good looks. Because I’m folically challenged there was no way to hide the fact that I had just been under the knife. I was tested on a regular basis by the customers that I supported – some did millions of dollars worth of business with my company. Although I had supported some of these customers for 2-3 years, they wondered whether I could still do the job. It was tough having to regain everyone’s trust, but I worked harder than I ever had. When I used to prep an hour for appointments before my surgery, now I was prepping 3-4 hours for each appointment. I had to prove that I was good and could be trusted as an expert in the Telecom space. Before, I spent a day or two pulling together an RFP response, now I spent two to three weeks to make sure things were perfect. It took a while, but I grew more confident in my ability, grew my revenue base and was less focused on my good looks (LOL).
To this day my closest friends and family tell me that since my surgery everything about me is the same, but I’m a bit more serious; YOU THINK? Now that I was back in the saddle, I had a different set of priorities. I had been given a slap across my face. I woke up from the 8-6 daily grind where I had spent the last 15 years.
I knew I wanted to control my own time, and my own destiny. You see, when you come really close to having everything taken away, you cherish life more and you cherish your role in this world more. After a year of planning, on June 19th, 2006 I opened Cottonwood Communications, a telecom consulting agency. Today business is great and I look back at my surgery as a blessing, not a curse.
Everyone knows the story of Lance Armstrong. Pretty incredible what that guy did, and what he continues to do. Have you ever heard of Sean Swarner? www.seanswarner.com . Sean is the first cancer survivor to climb Mt. Everest and be able to talk about it; He did it with one lung. Like them, I wish that I never had to go through the tough times that my health caused, but I’m happy with the final outcome. I tell my friends that Lance had it easy – he has hair to cover up his scar!
Hopefully you don’t need a major health issue to snap you out of the daily grind – hopefully you’ll come to your senses in a non-surgical way and find that passion that is inside of you. That passion to do the thing you love in life, and somehow get paid for it. Don’t you think this is what all of us are here to do? Ultimately you’ll be doing the best for yourself, your family, and the planet when you find out what that “thing” is.
Wide Area Networks or WANs come in many different colors.
If you do a Google search for WAN the first recommendation that they give you is Wanda Sykes, or Wanda Syke’s wife. If you’ve never seen or heard a comedy bit from her, it’s worth while – she is very funny! I just found out that there is also a World Association of Newspapers or WAN that was founded in 1948. Wikipedia says “that this WAN is a non-profit, non-governmental organization made up of 76 national newspaper associations, 12 news agencies, 10 regional press organizations and individual newspaper executives in 100 countries”. Now I’m thinking back to the many cocktail parties and networking functions that I’ve attended over the last 20 years wondering if any of the individuals I met thought that I was in that association. My normal explanation of what I did might have included helping customers with their WANs. I’ll have to be careful next time!
Wide Area Networks of WANs in our world is more commonly mentioned as the way in which companies connect their different offices, or LANs (Local Area Networks). Frame Relay was the first widely used, cloud based technology for WAN. I’m surprised when I come across customers that are still using this, but in some more remote areas it is still the best cost option for transmitting data back and forth.
On a local level many have gone to T-1 point to points. If the majority of your branches, stores or facilities are within the same LATA, this is the most cost efficient way to run your WAN. If you need more bandwidth you can double or triple your bandwidth by bonding T-1s with the use of your routers to get 3.0 or 4.5 Mb between locations. The LECs (Local Exchange Carriers – Qwest, AT&T, Verizon) have made the cost for point to point T-1s so attractive that this is what many customers end up doing.
If your locations are more geographically dispersed and spread out over a larger area, say in 2 or 50 states, you might entertain an MPLS T-1 WAN. MPLS, of multi protocol label switching is a way to prioritize traffic. If you want to run voice over your WAN having an MPLS network is critical. Many businesses today want all of their offices to get dial tone and voice mail access off the main PBX – these customers are having dynamic discussions about their WAN and their WAN operability. If things aren’t set up properly on the front end, nothing will work correctly.
Within the last 4-5 years the new game for WAN is ethernet. Without a doubt this is the best way to establish a WAN if you can make it work in your budget. Qwest Metro Optical Ethernet product has had huge success. With this offering you can connect your offices nationwide via ports that range from 5 Mb all the way up to 1 Gb (or 1,000 Mb). The beauty of ethernet is that you’re not putting the burden on the routers like you would if you bonded T’s. If you’re looking for screaming Internet access check out ELA or Ethernet Lan Access – this is Internet over the QMOE network. For all things Internet check out my posting from last week.
Both Verizon and AT&T have similar ethernet offerings to Qwest in their respective regions, but carriers like TW Telecom, XO, Integra, and Paetec are beginning to come to life with their EoC or Ethernet over copper products. If your company is a bit more cost conscious you may want to check out these offerings. I’ve found a great deal of competence with this technology at the Tier II level.
I have a feeling that ethernet will be the dominant WAN for a great many years to come. With offerings up to 1 GB on fiber provisions it’s difficult to see what applications will eat into that large bandwidth. But as time has shown, we’ll create apps that will eat it all up (eventually).
Is your Internet services big enough? Every once in a while I like writing about core offerings. I consider Internet access to be a core offering, because today most of the applications we use require Internet bandwidth.
10 years ago most businesses could get away with having just 1.5 Mb of bandwidth to the Internet. Today that doesn’t touch the surface on what is needed, particularly if you’re utilizing your connection to access many of the applications now available. As SaaS (Software as a Service) models continue to grow and more and more businesses reach outside of their LANS for dial tone, CRM, ERP, PLM, SCM, SRM type applications, the need for bigger and better bandwidth will always be needed. I stuck dial tone in the list above because now more than ever more and more businesses are looking to get a hosted PBX – Telesphere is a company that seems to have a grasp on this technology.
With cloud computing software designers can design, build, and deliver services that allow clients to easily access their applications from virtually any location. IBM seems to be positioned extremely well to assist many of the large software providers with implementing a SaaS strategy. Today, increased demand for Internet access is directly driven by the need for business applications.
Most of the carriers will bond T-1′s to provide their customers 3.0 – 9.0 Mb of access, but most have realized that to be positioned for the future they have to provide ethernet grade Internet access. Qwest has led the way in their 14 states providing ELA (Ethernet LAN Access) to the Internet over their QMOE (Qwest Metro Optical Ethernet) backbone. TW Telecom, Integra, and XO offer great pricing on their EoC (Ethernet over Copper) offerings. Be patient when you’re working to check availability and get quotes for this service as it can sometimes be a lengthy process. As always, make sure that you’re working with a carrier agnostic agency so that you can get multiple pricing from one source.
After you’ve been in the telecom and IT fields for a while you get excited when new offers become available. In 1989 I started selling long distance for Allnet Communications in Southern California. We were selling state to state long distance for $0.35/minute. That means that a 10 minute call from you to your girl or boyfriend cost $3.50. Do you remember? Allnet merged with Frontier about 12 years ago, then with Global Crossing and has not been seen or talked about since. At that time (1989) I’ll never forget how great my feet felt after making 50 cold calls. Somehow the fact that I had made multiple customer contacts, uncovered some great opportunities and often had closed a deal that same day made all of the pain fade away. It was an exciting time for me and for our industry.
Thank God the cold calling days are over…..maybe. Today, most of my time is spent with customers that I’ve supported for years and the days of hurt feet are done with. Cold calling is still a great way to penetrate a market and get a feel for how your product or service is perceived in the marketplace. It can be a bit scary for those that have never done it, but usually it has great rewards. Amazon has “Telephone sales for dummies” – I couldn’t find a dummie book for cold calling. Check out Tom Hopkins or Zig Ziglar for some true classic training.
One offering that I might have to present via cold calling is TW Telecom’s new ethernet + PRI or SIP offering. Provided your business is in one of their “LIT” buildings you can get a 4 Mb ethernet connection to the Internet along with a PRI or SIP trunks for your voice calling for only $775/month (10 Mb ethernet with PRI is only $950/month). Installation and DID cost aren’t included, but wow, what a deal! 7-8 years ago $775/month wouldn’t buy you an Internet T-1 or a voice T-1. Would anyone like to argue that the break-up of Ma Bell wasn’t a good idea? There are some crazy people out there!
And just a reminder for those of you from Lubbock – “DSL/Cable is for your home, T-1 is for your business”.
Times have changed and TW Telecom is one of the carriers out there putting together attractive bundles for the cash conscience consumer. Get with your favorite “Carrier Agnositic Telecommunications Agency” for additional details.
This time of year is always interesting to me. It seems like the list of things to do is endless in my personal life, but also very lengthy in my professional life as well. I refer to this year end, beginning of year list as a tune-up. To keep things running smoothly we all need to have a tune- up! Here are a few items on my personal tune-up list (maybe you have one that looks similar):
* Change out all of the batteries on home fire/smoke alarms
* Replace furnace air filter and have at least one back up on hand
* Lube & oil the garage door so that it’s not so noisy and continues to work for us for years to come
* Evaluate family portfolio and make sure to rebalance funds/stocks if necessary
PearlofAfrica suggests that taking dancing lessons, and going a minimum of 21 days without one complaint should be part of everyones personal list for the new year. I’ve taken dance lessons, but haven’t done the other.
Here’s a few off my business tune-up list:
* Organize files and begin pulling all details together for 2009 taxes
* Evaluate all expense aspects of our business to ensure things are in line for 2010. This includes Wireless service, computer hardware and software needs, insurance, payroll, etc…
* Goals for 2010, What will we target monthly as targets? What strategies will we take on to accomplish our goals?
These are just a few things that I’ve been thinking hard about over the last 2-3 weeks. Getting things tuned-up for the coming year is critical for most business owners. When’s the last time you had a “carrier agnostic” telecom professional provide you a free tune up on your voice and data service?
There are many groups out there today that charge for a telecom tune-up, but I’ve found that it’s not necessary to pay additional for this service. If you can find an individual or an agency that is “carrier agnostic” they can look at your existing set up for local, long distance, wireless, Internet, WAN and all other billable telecom expenses in an un-biased way to provide you solutions for reducing your total cost. Why hire a consultant to run some “fancy smancy” software program then pay them 50% of your savings for six months when you can work with an agency that’s just as qualified to look at your existing billings and make recommendations to you for free. If you work with a representative from just one of the carriers your only getting solutions from a single carrier – only one piece of the pie. Most of the “carrier agnostic” agencies don’t charge for their advice, they get paid by the carriers they represent when they place new orders for services.
If you had your druthers, would you rather have a part-time individual at H&R Block run your tax numbers through a computer, or have a Certified Public Accountant at Wilson Downing Group LLC go through your return line by line? Times are still tough for many business owners - if you can get better service and a greater return by working with a “carrier agnostic” agency, you should get your tune up today!