Friday, June 14, 2019

RingCentral VoIP Review - Z6Mag

RingCentral VoIP Review - Z6Mag


RingCentral VoIP Review - Z6Mag

Posted: 15 May 2019 12:00 AM PDT

VoIP has had a significant shift from a technology exclusively used by the early adopters or hobbyist to a widely adopted business form of communication. The industry expects an annual growth rate of 3.1% between 2019 to 2024 with a value ranging from 77.4 million USD in 2018 to 93.2 million USD by the end of 2024.

Undoubtedly, the business is exponentially growing at a breakneck pace, and VoIP providers are flocking in, offering packages that may or may not fit to what your business goals are. Hence, with our continued interest of unraveling the best VoIP provider, we are going to review key players in the industry and showcase opinions that will help businesses to determine solutions that work.

RingCentral Review

When it comes to the VoIP race, RingCentral is one of those providers that you won't miss out not to mention. Aside from its flexible pricing offers, the company has established a solid foundation in catering the communication needs of small-time businesses and large enterprises.

RingCentral was founded back in 1999 by Vlad Shmunis, and since then, the cloud-based company introduced new ways to connect and collaborate remotely. For almost 20 years of providing VoIP services, RingCentral has significantly banked on its easy VoIP setup, competitive prices, and cloud-based management system. In a sense, the VoIP provider established itself as one of the big names in the VoIP market.

Pricing

RingCentral Pricing Offers

As previously mentioned, RingCentral offers versatile and relatively competitive price packages. RingCentral starts things off with their Essential Plan that costs $19.99/month, which is suitable for small-time businesses with less than ten employees. The package supports up to 10 users with a four-person limit on its audio and video meeting feature.

The Essential Plan unlocks RingCentral 24/7 customer support lines and offers unlimited phone calling, 100 toll-free minutes, customer management and phone service administration, and other basic features necessary for small-time businesses.

The next tier that RingCentral offers is the Standard Plan which costs $24.99/month. The $5 difference from its Essential package provides businesses with a little more space to work with, especially with its zero-limit on the number of users. However, video and audio conferencing are still limited to four people at a time.

The RingCentral Standard Plan doesn't have much of a difference from its Essential plan, aside from getting 1,000 toll-free minutes per month. Further, the package credits you the same basic feature with a multi-level auto attendant that works as a virtual receptionist for routing calls to the right department. The Standard Plan also credits you internet fax and call log support that will come in handy during end-of-the-month business reporting.

If you think the previous offerings are small enough to fit your business needs, RingCentral has a Premium plan that costs $34.99/month. The package poses a vast amount of support for your business such as multi-site support, custom app development and deployment, and SalesForce, Zendesk, and Desk integration. The RingCentral Premium pushes the audio and video meeting limit to 100 people with toll-free minutes of up to 2,500/month. You'll also get Voicemail Transcription to Text support which converts voicemails to text for easy documentation.

The last tier that RingCentral offers is the Ultimate Plan for $49.99/month. The package provides the same amount of support as the Premium but boosts the number of minutes to 10,000 and the audio/video meeting bandwidth to 200 people.

How It Works?

Before starting things off with RingCentral, the first thing you need to know is if the service or the package fits your business goals. If the answer is yes, then there are two ways in installing RingCentral; its either you use your existing phones, or you purchase new equipment from RingCentral themselves.

If you opt to use your current desk phones, installing RingCentral is as easy as plug and play. Just plug your phones and computers to the internet jacks and install the RingCentral app to your employees' smartphones. After installation, you'll get to enjoy all the features based on the RingCentral package you opt to choose. And, since RingCentral is cloud-based, you can use its dedicated app for all your voice calls, faxing, audio/video conferencing needs.

With RingCentral's plethora of features, you don't have to rely on your traditional phone lines to handle all your business communication requirements. You'll get competitive management support, technology-forward IVRs, relaxing hold music, call management, and other basic features put in place so that you'll never miss a call again.

Comparison and Contrast

RingCentral is indeed one of the top tier VoIP providers in the market today. Its call management feature that enables businesses to customize their ways of communicating is one the best qualifier for RingCentral. You'll get call forwarding on the go with easy deployment based on your business or department's answering rules. You can easily configure automatic call recording and convert them to text for easy documentation. You'll also enjoy auto attendant, a feature that directs calls on the right department, to ensure that all requests go to the right person and provide solutions at first touch.

However, comparing RingCentral to other VoIP providers, there are noticeable differences that one cannot just disregard. Let's use Nextiva for example. Nextiva is also one to the leading VoIP players today, and statistically speaking, Nextiva is a highly-acclaimed cloud-based software provider with 99.99% reliability rate across NYC to Seattle.

Nextiva Pricing Table

Nextiva's VoIP plans provide consumers more flexibility at a more cheaper rate. For $20, Nextiva's Basic Plan equates to RingCentral's Standard Plan with more added features. You'll get additional support such as Advance Call Management and number porting for free.

Nextiva's Pro Plan steps the notch even higher. You'll get a customized greeting feature that works significantly in building your brand. Furthermore, you'll receive Text Messaging support that enables you to connect with your team and customers at your own pace and desire. Limitation towards the number of people allowed for conferencing is not much of a concern within Nextiva's VoIP packages. In a sense, you'll get more added support at a price relatively cheaper than what you get from RingCentral.

When setting up Nextiva, you can opt for Nextiva's professional installers to set up your VoIP lines for free. Through this installation method, you'll get to work with Nextiva on how you want to customize your VoIP solution. This method also eliminates common installation failure. But, with regards to the accessibility of installing Nextiva's VoIP, you'll get the same amount of convenience RingCentral offers.

The Verdict

RingCentral is, without a doubt, a competitive VoIP provider. However, the limitations on specific price plans are very concerning. Its Essential Plan lacks mobility and essential features like auto attendant and automatic call recording that are necessary for today's business needs; unless you pay $15 more to employ such elements.

While, if you compare it to companies like Nextiva, who are offering relatively the same or more amount of features on its basic plan, it enables businesses to manage communications with more flexibility without paying more than it should be. And, with today's competitive market, getting extra elements at a price lesser than the other, is a motivational factor to choose Nextiva aside from RingCentral.

More importantly, in choosing your cloud-based solution, you should understand what your business goals are, and see if the provider offer such features. Don't just settle with prices, and pick a solution that enables you to manage your calls and business needs on a much broader scale.

EU court rules against Skype, says it can be classified as telecoms operator - Reuters

Posted: 05 Jun 2019 12:00 AM PDT

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Microsoft's internet phone call and messaging service Skype can be considered a telecoms operator as it offers a paid-for service and has a deal with network operators to carry calls, Europe's top court said on Wednesday.

A Belgian court and the Belgian Institute of Postal and Telecommunications Service (IBPT) had sought guidance from the European Court of Justice on whether Skype's SkypeOut service, which allows users to call from computers to a fixed or mobile line for a fee, should be subject to the same regulation as a traditional telecoms company.

Skype had argued that it did not transmit signals itself and did not provide any electronic communications services such as those defined by current EU rules.

Microsoft said it would comply with the ruling, which will require the paid-for service to adhere to more onerous regulation.

Seeking to address the gap between traditional telecoms providers and new internet-based rivals, the European Commission two years ago adopted rules for the sector known as the European Electronic Communications Code which covers Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and other voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services.

EU countries have until the end of 2020 to implement the rules.

The case is C-142/18 Skype Communications Sarl v IBPT

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

Alexa: Will my guestroom phone soon be gone? - Hotel Management

Posted: 03 Jun 2019 12:00 AM PDT

Telephone manufacturers have differing opinions about whether the technology behind Amazon's Echo, Google's Home and similar devices will help or hurt the guestroom telephone. While most agree that the guestroom phone will remain a mainstay no matter what other technology is employed, how the guestroom phone interacts with that technology is key. 

"I think there is a lot of buzz about these device," said Brock Munsell, chief technology officer and VP of sales at Cetis. "[Amazon and Google] are spending billions on promoting these products. The hotel industry typically follows the consumer market. I believe the consumer market has peaked and the hotel industry is just beginning to test the water on if or where this technology may have an application."

According to Bittel Americas President Joe Zhang, guestroom telephones are a perfect fit with Alexa or Google.

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"It is a perfect complement for those voice devices. We made our guestroom phone 'voice ready,' meaning that it is ready to work with the Alexa or Google or any other voice assistant. Having a smart guestroom telephone capable of working with the voice assistant will allow the voice assistant access to the hotel telephony network where hotel services and emergency services are readily available."

While digital personal assistants are picking up speed across industries, the hotel phone remains crucial to any hotel offering, said Chad Collins, VP of sales, Americas for VTech Communications. "Imagine walking into a hotel room that had no phone," he said. "While millennials and Gen X guest are quite comfortable with emerging technologies and may not notice, the baby boomers and [others] are generally more comfortable with technologies that they are familiar with and would consider it a fail to not have a phone in their rooms. This will remain the case for many years."

Angie Hospitality CEO Ted Helvey believes the only reason to keep a telephone in a guestroom is to make emergency calls and engage with the front desk. "Telephones are just regulated to internal calls and emergency calls, although extremely rare," he said. "But I believe Angie and other voice-enabled devices could replace the phone. Something like 'Hey Angie, I'm hungry' can take the place of the phone call to roomservice since Angie will direct the guest request." 

Because this technology offers automated or artificial intelligence-driven responses to guest requests, voice-response technologies such as these will help to replace the guestroom phone, said Frank Melville, Phonesuite's president/CEO. "The few remaining uses for a guestroom phone—emergency calls and requests for hotel services—can be provided to guests without a mobile device or whose mobile battery is dead. So the simple answer is, someday the guestroom phone will be gone."

Must-Have Telephone Features

While a number of hotels have moved to voice-enabled smart devices in the guestrooms, the telephone remains an important mainstay. There are many features that are important for hoteliers and guests but Collins believes cordless handsets and speakerphones, which give guests more freedom to move about their rooms, are two of the most important. 

Emergency 911 call reporting, immediately on placing the call, that includes identifying the guestroom and guest name to several key staff roles and locations is another key feature, Melville said. "Emergency service is the leading reason brand executives whose job it is to worry about the guest's safety continue to require a guestroom phone," he said. 

Wake-up calls, including logs of who set, cleared, answered or missed the call, are key as well. "Most of our larger hotel installations still do a lot of guest wake-up calls, especially those near airports," Melville said. "It is perhaps the largest remaining actual use of the guestroom phone."

Smaller phone footprints, which allow for easy placement and more space on the nightstand, and USB charging ports, which make it easy for guests to charge their smartphones and other electronic devices, are crucial, Collins said. 

Another reason Melville believes hotels will continue to provide guestroom telephones is for housekeeping status updates. These updates do not require a telephone, but they are the simplest way to update a property-management system, he said. "When a housekeeper needs to update the PMS with room status (clean, dirty, maintenance required, etc.) they use the guestroom phone to dial a specific status code and the PBX passes this status update message to the PMS," he said. 

Why Technology is Making Guestroom Phones Smarter

New technology makes hotel telephones even easier for guests to use while technology is allowing hotels to further reduce their infrastructure needs for telephones. "We always had waterproof technology and magnetic hook switch to protect hotel phones from liquid damages (the No. 1 damage to hotel phones); now we have voice assistant technology to allow guests making phone calls by talking to a voice assistant like Alexa," Zhang said. 

Phone manufacturers are taking advantage of the Wi-Fi network for telephone networks, and in turn, reducing the infrastructure cost of a hotel telephony network, Zhang continued. 

"VoIP (SIP) technology offers a great deal of benefits to a hotel," Collins said.  From an operational standpoint, information technology managers can push firmware upgrades to every room on the property without ever setting foot in the room—preventing hundreds or sometimes thousands of disruptive in-room sessions plus the legwork involved. 

"While this, among other benefits, is a plus for the hotel, it is transparent to the guests who frankly only care that the phone works and are more concerned with their overall hotel experience and would rather open the doors to room service or fresh towels," he continued. 

Ashu Upa, CEO at Matrix Telcom, suggests that the hybrid VOIP phone system that uses voice over IP trunk and a guest room analog phone, can reduce a hoteliers' operation costs since an analog phone is much easier to maintain compared to VOIP phones. 

At Phonesuite, Melville said he does not see technological improvements in the hotel guest room phone or the technology behind it improving to the point where the phone evolves and remains in the room.  "The technology and purpose behind the basic guest room phone are going away, and will likely be replaced by some combination of a mobile app and voice activated response systems like Amazon's Echo," he said. 

"The guest room phone is similar to the land line you used to have at home," he continued. "But this shift is not just away from the land line and toward the mobile phone or mobile app, there is also a shift in the method guests prefer to communicate over – to texting." 

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