Just Breathe: Building an IT Reputation During COVID-19 - No Jitter

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Just Breathe: Building an IT Reputation During COVID-19 - No JitterJust Breathe: Building an IT Reputation During COVID-19 - No JitterPosted: 07 Apr 2020 04:04 AM PDTAs COVID-19 runs its course, telecom managers are adjusting to changes like everyone else. Another IT leader in my company recently sent this email, and it seems appropriate to share at this challenging time:Patience is a virtue, and a little kindness goes a long way.The time was and is bound to come, perhaps multiple times due to the increased stresses of the current global situation where we all start to feel stressed out, far overworked with no end in sight and short-tempered. Everyone needs to take a moment to breathe and please don't forget to keep taking a moment when necessary going forward. This already applied implicitly but in times like these when the volume and criticality of requests are several multiples higher and with our daily lives being twisted into something unfamiliar, it needs to be explicit. Eve…

Goodbye Operator, Hello Operating System - Forbes

Goodbye Operator, Hello Operating System - Forbes


Goodbye Operator, Hello Operating System - Forbes

Posted: 21 Aug 2012 12:00 AM PDT

Are Hosted Business Phone Systems the New Black?

In my recent Forbes.com post, "How to break up with your landline," I discussed the merits of easy-to-use VoIP applications like MagicJack, Google Voice, and Skype for small businesses.  But what happens when you've got an office of five or more people and want a main office phone number, extensions, a dial-by-name directory, voicemail boxes, hold music, and more?  The answer is that you need a real phone system — and they are not cheap. Last week I had three companies come by to price out a phone system for our office, and the bids ranged from $3,000 - $5,000. Luckily, as I was on the verge of despair, I received an email from Nicole Hayward at OnSIP that opened my eyes to new options. I was so delighted I thought I would do a follow up post for all of you who were as disappointed as I was with the apparent limitations of VoIP.

Say goodbye to your landline.

If you're not familiar with office phone systems, they have been advancing over the years. The popular television show Mad Men depicts women in a small room answering calls on a telephone switchboard and physically connecting Roger's line with an incoming call via a wire and plug.  It's an accurate portrayal of what the "Private Branch Exchange" (PBX) was in the not so distant 1960s.

Fast forward to today: PBXs are digital switches, written in software that can control incoming calls over a data network— VoIP - and you no longer need to have a PBX in your office. Like GMail, Basecamp, Salesforce, Freshbooks, and other software that you can sign up for and use on the Internet, "hosted PBX" allows you to set up a phone system in your office by connecting IP desk phones or software phones to the Internet.  Here's are a few examples of hosted business phone systems you can use today:

 OnSIP

If you're looking for simple sign up, set up, and a pay-as-you-go model for 5-100 employees, OnSIPHostedVoIP will fit the bill.  OnSIP provides a straight forward adminstrative portal for creating extensions, adding voicemail boxes, uploading an auto attendant recording, adding conference bridges, and more.  OnSIP also provides a free unified communications interface (think Skype, but for a group of people) you simply click to dial coworkers, chat with coworkers, and check your voicemail — all in one place.  Because OnSIP is at its heart a SaaS company, they include value-added integrations like Chrome, Firefox, and Outlook Click-to-Call plugins and a Highrise CRM integration. Other benefits include great scalability (the company does not charge you per user, phone, or extension; instead it charges you 2.9 cents/min for inbound and outbound calls), reportedly excellent audio quality, and full mobile compatibility. After getting the pitch, I am particularly interested in OnSip because extension to extension calls are free regardless of where your employees are located, making it great for working with contractors and remote employees. Nicole told me that her customers pay an average of $16 per month per user, which seems pretty reasonable given the level of sophistication.

PhoneBooth

Need nationwide unlimited calling? Looking for something with a flat fee per user? Then perhaps PhoneBooth is right for your business. For $20 per user per month, you get unlimited nationwide local and long distance calling, 2 free phone numbers, unlimited auto-attendants, groups, voicemail transcriptions, and conferences (in 2 free conference bridges). Phonebooth also comes with a web 2.0 interface for managing features. They are currently offering a free version for smaller businesses (1-3 people), freelancers, and independent professionals. The free service includes a business phone number, an auto attendant, extensions, voicemail transcription, and 200 minutes of free inbound calling per month. Note that the free version does not include outbound calls; that feature requires you to purchase IP phones from among those in their selection.

 8x8

A list of hosted business phone services would not be complete without mentioning 8x8. The only publicly traded company on this list, 8x8 offers a variety of solutions for businesses of all sizes, including hosted VoIP phone service, cloud hosting, and hosted call center solutions. For $29.99/month per extension, you get unlimited calling to the US and Canada and 8 other countries plus a conference bridge for every user, in addition to Fortune 500 phone system features. 8x8 also has an impressive list of integrations with other business software such as Salesforce, SugarCRM, and more. For another $20/month per extension, you can add online collaborative meetings, call recording, and Internet faxing. Of the 3 services covered here, 8x8 clearly has the most features, but it is also the most expensive. The company also charges activation fees and requires you to sign a contract, unlike OnSIP and Phonebooth. Like Phonebooth, you also must purchase phones within their selection.

Summary

If you're in the process of shopping for hosted PBX, you will want to compare services based on what fits your business needs best. Do you need bundled fax? Do you have distributed employees? How much call volume does your business generate per month? Can you use any IP phone or are you restricted to a particular kind? How do you feel about 12 month contracts? Knowing the answers to these questions beforehand can make your search for a business phone system much easier. The good news is that whatever the answers are for your business, there's probably an affordable and modern solution to your landline conundrum. Happy calling!

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