FormRouter

Internet-based forms host and retrieval company evicts the hardware, saves on calling costs, gains mobility through OnSIP hosted PBX.

The business of FormRouter, Cary, N.C., is taking all the technical hassles out of getting data from online forms into desktop databases. Using their servers and their online configuration tools, client companies create and post online forms and then securely receive the resulting response data into their own databases. In the words of CFO Sonny Menon: “We say, ‘Your form, securely online, in five minutes. No programming. No servers. No IT staff intervention needed.’ Kind of like what Junction Networks does for the telecom space.”

Menon knew that outsourcing solutions existed for business phone switching, just as his company hosted form publishing and retrieval. Both relied on the use of Web interfaces and the application service provider (ASP) model. Menon also knew that like his B2B business, PBX host companies were similarly lowering businesses’ costs. With his staff scattered among several remote offices, outsourcing his phone system made even more sense.

The company’s previous provider, a major southeastern carrier, had installed analog lines to a preexisting PBX. . “The service was expensive for what we were using,” says Menon. Neither was customer service anything to write home about. “We just started to investigate alternatives that delivered the same amount of service for less.”

Weeding out wobbly providers, complicated pricing schemes

Menon’s research unearthed a host of hosted PBX services. Online reviews described some with frequent voice quality problems; others seemed to be teetering financially. He finally took a no-risk trial of Junction Networks’ OnSIP hosted PBX service. “Junction Network’s system looked pretty straightforward, with upfront pricing,” Menon recalls. “The company looked reasonably stable, having been around a while. The system also looked pretty simple to set up. I’m not a CTO type by any means, I’m more of a finance type, and I had no trouble with it.” Before investing in SIP phones, the company experimented with free softphones. Setup for fewer than ten extensions was finished in less than an hour, says Menon.

“There’s nothing physical you need on your site except for your phone. That’s pretty nice,” Menon adds. Satisfied that OnSIP did “all the regular things you do on an ordinary PBX – transfer, hold, conference call -- with no more difficulty,” Menon bought UT Starcom F3000 wi-fi phones, at around $160 apiece, to serve as extensions through a wireless LAN. “Places that I might sit and work for a long time usually have some form of Wi-Fi access. I’ve tried it in different hot spots and it seems to work fine. I don’t think these things take up that much bandwidth.” These Wi-Fi phones may be replaced, however, with later models that accept standard headsets.

Catching after-hours business

With the OnSIP browser-based dashboard, users can easily set the system to route calls to cell phones if the Wi-Fi extension doesn’t pick up. Or both can ring at once. This flexibility has saved the company some business: “There have been customer calls that come in after hours. The sales group may have gone home, but if someone’s available to take that call via cell, they’ll take it. That’s an order that isn’t lost.”

The company uses contact names stored in the phones to make a lot of extension-to-extension and outbound calls. “The biggest change we had was pulling out a PBX box – it was kind of nice to see it go away -- and doing everything over the Internet, which was pretty easy,” says Menon.

All FormRouter employees have broadband of at least six MB/s via cable; they’ve set up some ring groups and hunt groups, features that come with the package. And they use ONSIP’s auto attendant and dial-by-name directory as well, giving a small company a big-company phone impression.

Reasonable Prices

FormRouter’s OnSip soho package cost $39.95 per month, plus a “very reasonable” 2.9 cents a minute for off-net calling and 3.9 cents a minute for in-bound toll-free. Menon says the company cut its phone bill by more than half.

Asked about features he’d like to see added to OnSIP, he doesn’t have any ready suggestions. “OnSIP gives us the same set of features that people are used to using in a traditional phone system, and in some cases more, for a lot less. You’re not giving up anything in usability, but you’re getting a lot in price.”

Plus mobility, he adds. “If you’re on a traditional PBX you’re stuck in the office. With the Wi-Fi phone, I can be at any hot spot, go anywhere I want and make a call through the system. And if, say, your office space moves, with a traditional system you’re going to have to pay someone to come in and pull all the hardware and install it in a new location. You’ll have to schedule all this a month or two in advance, coordinate with the landlord and hope they show on time. With an ASP like this, you don’t have any of these issues.”

“The way I look at it, if I can pick up the phone without thinking about it, have a clear connection, no problems and save money, that’s what I’m looking for. That’s what we’re getting so far.”