Persistence Pays (60% of His Telecom Costs) for Hosted PBX Shopper
Quiksoft Corp., Broomall, PA, is a B2B email software developer whose president, John Alessi, knows a lot about hosted PBX offerings. It’s taken him four tries to find the one he plans on keeping.
Hosted IP phone switching makes sense for his business because his workforce is fairly mobile. With a hosted IP PBX, they can easily call each other, free, from any broadband tap with an IP phone, softphone, or a regular PSTN phone with an IP terminal adapter. They can use the same calling features – and be reached through the same traditional, 10-digit phone number -- wherever they go, while getting clearer, more reliable connections than mobile phones can manage.
Says Alessi: "I wanted to have the same level of telephone control out of the office as I have in the office. I’d seen what you could do with VoIP, and I wanted to see that working. It’s taken me a few tries to get there."
Try 1: No reseller control, no vendor clout, no fixes
His first experience was the worst: “They were basically reselling Broadsoft-type services and couldn’t resolve issues,” he says. “They set us up with Nortel IP phones and a hosted VoIP system and they had lots of problems, which they couldn’t resolve themselves and couldn’t get their vendor to fix.” He sold the Nortel phones on eBay. “They were nice phones; it was just a shame that the company couldn’t provide any customer service.”
The second one “wasn’t that bad, but wasn’t that good,” says Alessi.
Installing their Polycom IP phones, Quiksoft stayed with them a year, and again had lots of little problems that were never resolved. Callers would get dropped from hold. Calls that were supposed to ring every phone in the office rang every phone but his.
Again, "I think it was really out of their control,” says Alessi. “They were basically reselling a service that they got from one of those big companies that make a lot of VoIP software and hardware."
Provider Number Three at least allowed Quiksoft to preserve its investment in Polycom phones. But that experience ended badly, too.
It’s not easy finding hosted PBX-type voice systems, Alessi notes. “Most wanted me to use my own phones and terminal adapters like you do with consumer services. I couldn’t bring myself to subscribe to a PBX service through the local phone company [i.e., Centrex]. That seemed so archaic, using pound codes for functions. I got tired of searching on Google. I must have spent 20 hours trawling through search results until Junction Networks popped up.”
Provider-made platform, customer hands-on control Alessi was immediately interested because he saw an important difference in their service description: “They had built their platform themselves. They have control over their own software.” They’d also built a web-based, do-it-yourself interface that strongly appealed to the hands-on Alessi. “The other providers wanted me out of their administration systems, wanted to do all the configuration and changes themselves. Half the time they weren’t doing what I really wanted, or didn’t understand what I wanted.”
“Junction Networks was perfect, because I could sign up online immediately with my credit card.” It took only a few minutes before he started adding users. “I got my service working that night without any help. It was a pay-as-you go plan with a low monthly minimum; you just paid for what you used. Not only has the service been spectacular, but it costs us about a third of what we were paying before.”
Alessi does admit to calling Mike Oeth, CEO at Junction Networks, and asking “a zillion questions” before committing to the paid part of the service and ordering his PSTN-accessible phone numbers. His main numbers were ported from his previous provider. The DIDs (direct inward dial numbers, for individuals) were provisioned through Junction Networks. “We’ve changed our DIDs more often than we’ve changed our socks over the years,” he says. But they’ve been with Junction Networks now since January 2007, and plan to stay.
Checking his call detail records online – actual billing and payment is made through his credit card -- Alessi says the Junction Networks hosted IP PBX solution, sold with a feature bundle as “onSIP Complete,” costs him about two fifths of what he was paying previously, on $39-per-seat plans. Most of his company’s calling is within the group, so there’s little off-net traffic. In addition to dropping his major-carrier long distance account, he’s even switched his toll-free service to Junction Networks, paying per call. It’s nice to consolidate all that,” he says, “and especially to pay so little for it.”
Alessi’s company still uses its Polycom IP phones. They use the typical PBX transfer, hold, hunt group, auto attendant, and voice mail functions, in addition to email-retrievable voice mail. Alessi also has phones in his home and business offices ring simultaneously to the same number, showing the same incoming Caller IDs. He didn’t need two user accounts for this, he notes; “I set them both up to the same SIP address; that’s been fantastic.” At home, in addition to the Polycom, he has a regular cordless phone hooked to his broadband line with a Sipura VoIP adapter; this way, he can handle off -hours international calls anywhere around the house.
While Alessi chose Junction Networks largely for the company’s ability to control its own platform and rectify its own problems, he says he’s had “zero” problems with the service. “I haven’t noticed any strange behavior that I couldn’t resolve,” he says. “I’ve talked to Mike, I’ve talked to the support people, and they’ve all been fantastic. I want to plug these guys wherever I can, because I don’t ever want to stop using them.”