Phones, phones, more phones…squirrel

An observation by guest blogger – Michael Gabhart 

IT Managers Association (ITMA) Conference 2016 was a success! For the second consecutive year, Unified Technologies was a proud sponsor of the annual ITMA Conference here in Louisville, KY. Held yesterday at the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, nearly 70 attendees participated in this year’s event. ITMA focuses on providing pertinent education and industry resources to IT managers across the region. The ITMA board did an excellent job preparing a speaker rotation that covered various topics from “Deploying WiFi” to my favorite, “Cool IT Gadgets in 2016.”

Special thanks to our friend, and business partner, Bob Daugherty, of DMLO, for playing host. As a FoB (Friend of Bob), we will look forward to supporting the ITMA conference for years to come!

We’d also like to thank Greg Kamer with Ruckus Wireless as our sponsored presenter at the conference. Greg is an SME in the wireless LAN/WAN space and brings a wealth of knowledge. We thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with the group.

As I was reflecting on the day invested with our friends at the conference, both attendees and other vendors, I wanted to share some points that really hit home with me as it relates specifically to the voice technology space that we serve. Because, as the title of this post might suggest, there is a lot of confusing information, even misinformation, in the voice industry right now.

Three key points to remember when considering the voice industry:

First of all, it’s important to know that the term VoIP (or voice over internet protocol) is a very generic term. More specifically, there are a lot of different flavors and delivery methods for this thing called VoIP, each influencing the success, or failure of a VoIP migration or deployment.

Second, it’s important to note, that IP endpoint technology, or the physical phone itself, has come a long way! Many of the new phone devices utilize iOS or Android technology providing a lot of color display and touch screen features and even embedding video in the phone itself, much like the futuristic Jetsons cartoons back in the 80’s. Phone endpoint manufacturers like Cisco, Polycom, Meraki, ShoreTel, Mitel, Yealink, Snom, etc. all compete to seemingly make the most exciting and feature rich phone device. And all these devices are built for VoIP deployments.

Third, we have to understand that no matter how wonderfully awesome that endpoint or phone is, the quality of the voice conversation (and video!?!?!) is only as good as the network connection (or internet connection for hosted providers). And since the entire purpose of a phone, is to talk to internal and external customers, I think that point gets lost, or ignored, in this world of cloud and VoIP. At very least, it’s under-appreciated. You might even get the impression that the reliability of the phone, and the voice conversation itself, is secondary to the features and the desire to jump to the cloud. Be sure to stay tuned for a future blog entitled, “How a seemingly simple decision to move my phone system to Ring Central cost me and my small business more than $1.2 million dollars.”

Walking through the business expo yesterday, an average attendee would have noticed that 5 of the vendor booths (about 50% of the total) featured telephones, Unified Technologies included in that group.

What the average attendee at the vendor fair wouldn’t have noticed, is how different the delivery method each of the vendors uses to deploy their VoIP solution. And that’s where the conversation gets interesting…at least to a phone nerd like me.

The delivery method of VoIP solutions is just as important as the voice system itself.

Many manufacturers, Cisco included, offer a SIP phone that hosted providers use for their deployments. So as a voice professional, I know just because there is a Cisco phone on a desk, chances are high that the business doesn’t actually have a Cisco phone system. What they often have, and what was reinforced yesterday, is a hosted service provider in “the cloud” that connects their endpoint (or phone) across their internet connection to a big phone system located in a data center(s) somewhere else in the world. Yesterday, three different vendors had Cisco phones at their booths to demonstrate they offer “VoIP”; what they really offered was:

Vendor 1: Cisco, the manufacturer, hosted phone system called Spark. Every major manufacturer, including ShoreTel and Mitel, is now positioning the monthly recurring revenue model and support that hosted deployment offering to the end customer. (NOTE: Unified Technologies can provide a hosted solution if that’s the right model for a business.)

Vendor 2: Third party hosted offering that uses Cisco sip phones. There are literally hundreds of these 3rd party hosted providers. A simple google search for “business phone systems” will turn up hundreds of these providers (Ring Central, 8X8, Phonality etc.) … ironically, none of which are truly “business phone systems”. (NOTE: I wouldn’t know what to actually search in google if you wanted to research business phone systems.)

Vendor 3: Locally built hosted PBX, also using Cisco sip phones.

Even inside these hosted offerings, those 3 models are very, very different and each have their own pro’s and con’s; financially, functionally and from a service standpoint.

If not designed properly, all 3 expose voice to the public internet.

And that’s the issue.

Regardless of the price, regardless of the features, and regardless how nice the sales rep is, if you expose voice to the public internet be prepared for there to be voice degradation, dropped and/or choppy calls.

And then be prepared for the hosted provider to blame your internet connection.

 If you get nothing else out of this blog, please get this: If your voice conversation is exposed to the public internet, your business does not have guaranteed quality of service for your voice interaction. Further, if your internet connection is a broadband internet connection (think DSL or Cable) the latency on those circuits (by the simple nature of those circuits) will deliver a poor voice experience. 

There are applications where this does make sense. Very small remote offices or even home-based offices are great uses of VoIP over the internet. As long as the expectations are set appropriately. I have a VoIP phone at my home across my AT&T U-Verse internet product and it works well (even great, most of the time!).

As you evaluate voice over IP technologies, be sure to engage a trusted partner that understands voice. It is a specialized form of IT and has to be treated that way. Voice is a real-time application. Consider this….if your email is delivered 500 milliseconds (or even 5 minutes) delayed, do you care or even notice? (Think Office365). But what about your voice conversation? What if you’re talking with someone on the phone and your voice is delayed 500 milliseconds or even worse?

Providing better VoIP solutions for any company, in any scenario.

Unified Technologies is a niche IT service provider; we just do voice. Regardless of deployment model or size. We have a very exciting, managed voice services program that has a lot of momentum right now, and our role is to compliment internal, or external IT resources to deliver and service a superior voice solution.

From 3 phones, like a small doctor’s office we deployed last week in southern Indiana, to the 1000 room hotel we also deployed last week, we do small, medium and large voice platform design, implementation and support.

We Do It All

From Cloud or premise to hybrid, or traditional or VoIP.

From capital acquisition models to operating expense models or fully managed service experience to just the essentials.

No matter which solution you choose our goal is to do that better than anyone else.

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