This week, our own Eden Harvest interviewed Hudson River Sloop Clearwater about their transition to business VoIP.
Here at OnSIP, we have many amazing non-profits among our customers. I'd like to highlight one that I have a personal connection to, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. In the late 60's, nobody was kayaking on the Hudson, there were no organized swimming events, and large portions of the river were so polluted that marine life was unsustainable. Clearwater's mission has not wavered since it was founded by legendary folk singer and activist Pete Seeger in 1966, when he decided to "build a boat to save the river."
Since launching in 1969, the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater has become a powerful ally of the environment, and to date, over 500,000 city kids like me have had a chance to experience and appreciate the Hudson onboard the sloop through its educational programs designed to inspire the next generation of environmental leaders. In 1971, I lived two blocks from the Hudson, and I was lucky enough to sail with my first grade class on the sloop Clearwater. It was a great day that taught us about pollutants and what we could do to help make a cleaner river and a better environment.
From my childhood to the present day, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater has driven legislation, organized communities, and worked to clean up the Hudson— carrying Pete Seeger's legacy forward. Having grown to over 30 staff and crew members, Clearwater needed a phone system that would keep costs low, while keeping connectivity and audio quality high. Cost savings are important to any business, but especially to an effective non-profit organization that must carefully manage costs in order to fund their mission. Organizations with high administrative costs are less attractive to philanthropic foundations and individual donors, who want their contributions to go to funding mission-based programming, rather than overhead costs. OnSIP emerged as the best choice.
I had a chance to discuss OnSIP with Hal Cohen, Director of IT at Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.
Tell us about your transition to VoIP, and how you selected OnSIP.
Our purchased PBX and desk sets were old and failing. The number of lines we needed varied drastically. It ranged from a very low number when our staff was doing environmental work in the field to the number of lines needed for phone banks during appeals. On average, we were paying for more telephone service than we needed. Coincidentally, we were also moving to a new city on the Hudson River and would need a new phone system. We researched VoIP.
At first we considered running our own Asterisk server as a virtual machine on our main server, but this was a new technology for us and a major exposure from a reliability standpoint. We compared OnSIP with other providers we found on the internet. OnSIP's Small Business Package (99.95/mo.) seemed like a good fit for our feature requirements as well as the flexibility of paying only for the talk time we used on an essentially unlimited number of lines. After speaking with OnSIP's Mike Oeth, we decided to take advantage of the free trial.
The transition to VoIP and OnSIP couldn't have been smoother. We had an initial problem that manifested itself as 'one-way voice' when using OnSIP and our Cisco 2811 router. During troubleshooting, OnSIP engineers helped with the investigation and documentation that we ultimately presented to Cisco to prove there was a bug in their software. There was some degree of frustration on the part of our staff, but like any new technology once the problem was resolved the performance and cost of OnSIP proved worth the start-up pain.
What are some of your favorite features of OnSIP?
We assigned extensions to voicemail boxes, enabling our receptionist to transfer a call directly to the box without waiting for 4 unanswered rings. We also use a reception ring group, a dial plan to eliminate the need to dial extra digits within our local area code, and a dial-by-name directory. The ability to configure the phones using OnSIP's Polycom boot server also made setup much easier.
I'd like to encourage you to visit the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater website and learn about Clearwater's many initiatives to inspire, educate and activate the next generation of environmental leaders. Each June offers an opportunity to attend the Hudson River Revival, the nation's oldest environmental and music festival, and enjoy performances and activities for people of all ages. Please support this great organization. They are doing amazing work, revitalizing our air and water, and working to improve the quality of life for the communities of the Hudson Valley. We are proud to have them as a customer.