In selecting a phone system I knew I wanted something that was “Bulletproof” in that it wouldn’t break on me. I needed to minimize outages in every way. The most likely ways the system would fail needed to be mitigated as part of the choice between on-prem and cloud based solutions. When I started my search, I was partial to on-prem solutions. I knew they’d be cheaper in the mid to long term (they are). But with on-prem come responsibilities I didn’t want.
I was also choosing between old school POTS lines (Land lines bought from local phone companies) and VOIP. Land lines are mostly bulletproof. VOIP has all kinds of issues that I knew about and some that I didn’t. It’s important to know about them and minimize them.
Risks, Rewards and Roadblocks to making this decision:
- My hatred of busy signals stopped me from picking a solution that included POTS lines. So VOIP would have to do. Now On-prem versus cloud…
- On prem has tech support burdens, on me specifically, which I didn’t want. It also left me susceptible to outages because of power failure. Odds that my office building power would drop were low but once again, I hate busy signals. I can’t have the power going down.
- I could have gotten a battery backup for the phone system but the handsets needed power too. I’ve had experience with battery backups too and they don’t last super long. Also, the fixed expense would drive up my breakeven between cloud and on-prem.
- The cloud solution, while higher cost per month, did not include an initial outlay of capital, except for the handsets themselves. Tech support was included and unlimited and I’m the kind of guy who uses tech support extensively. I want my system right and I won’t accept anything less. In addition, anyone on staff could call tech support too. So when I was out, I didn’t have to be the only guy who knew how to fix things.
- The cloud solution allowed staff to log in from their cell phones. So I expect the cloud system to never go down and as long as the cell towers have power, we are still answering phones. Pretty bullet proof.
Here is where a VOIP system is less than perfect and what I did to minimize issues.
- Phone call quality. VOIP systems are notorious for having spotty call quality which is really really concerning to me. To minimize this issue, our internet connection is fiber optic. We have 100 mbs down and 20 mbs up. They told me this was plenty for what I was doing and so it appears it is. It also costs $150 a month. We needed an internet connection anyway so I can’t really count it as a phone system cost. I could have gone coaxial (cable) from Comcast and we could have had speeds of 1 gig. I didn’t chose this option because speed isn’t the defining factor. What’s important is you have a solid connection. Coax connections float around in speed and worse yet, they have line noise they pick up from electromagnetic radiation. This doesn’t matter to home Netflix streamers but really matters to real time sound quality. In addition I was worried about latency. Internet data is relayed in packets to routers who relay it to other routers and so on until it makes it to its destination. Latency is caused by how long it takes for the signal to get picked up and relayed from every hop. Fiber optic connections are low latency by design. The connections aren’t affected by EMR and the speed you get, while expensive comparatively, is predictably solid as a rock.
One other thing that I’m going to intentionally put unkindly to make a point. Every tech support person who ever walked the earth has tried to get the dude on the phone, off the phone by telling him the problem isn’t with HIS system, its with YOURS. Telling them you have a fiber-optic internet connection has the tendency to shut them up, at least about that possible failure point. It was worth the money.
- My internal network is very high quality, it needs to be, and I still have some issues. I run a Cisco Meraki gateway which was professional installed and monitored by a third party. I’ve had to call them 3 times to take a look at it. The symptom is a weird jutter in the phone calls making them fade in and out quickly. The issue seems to be under control. I’ve had the system for 9 months.
- My network is set up for Power over Internet POE. You need this, it’s cool, I always wanted it and I’m glad I spent the extra money for it. Your desk phones will be powered by the Cat 6 cable that’s plugged in the back. It works like a champ and keeps the cables to a minimum. You can run WIFI network pucks and cameras with POE too. There are entire dimmable LED lighting systems for it too. Ubiquity is the router manufacturer. Their stuff is amazing, don’t buy anything else.
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