Economical to most people means cheap. To me it means; what’s my least expensive option IN THE CONTEXT of meeting all my needs. A cheap option that doesn’t do all the things you need it to do is no option at all. We chose the Sangoma Digium cloud hosted phone system (as opposed to the on-premise Digium system).
From a needs and wants standpoint to met all our requirements as covered in the previous posts. So the next thing to do is talk about costs.
There are two different pricepoints for the Digium Phones. Cloud hosted has one price point and on-premise has another.
- On-Premise: As you would expect, this is a physical box inside your building that runs your phone system. The box itself has come a long way since I bought our first phone system from Nortel. This thing is about twice the size of a pack of cigarettes. Run on a tiny intel processor and I believe Unix based. I have been told it’s the exact same software that they run on the cloud based system.
Running the same software is really good because you have an exact migration path between both systems should you change your mind about which one you want.
The on-prem system is less expensive in absolute dollars over the long term. I did the number and I believe the break even was 12 – 18 months. So if you if you own the system in month 19, you will be saving money over the cloud based system.
However, an on-prem system needs a connection to a phone company called a “Sip-Trunk”. This means you need to estimate the number of inbound and outbound phone calls you will have at any one time. Estimate wrong and someone is getting a busy signal. This was the kiss-of-death for the on-prem system for me.
- Cloud Based System: Over time, this system is more expensive than the on-prem system. However it had some very attractive perks. First, it was a utility. I could turn it off and walk away with very little sunk costs in the form of hardware that I owned and had no resale market for.
Unlimited technical support. This might seem lower priority for you because once it’s up and running what do you need tech support for? Shouldn’t it run and never break? If it does require constant tech support should I find a different option?
Yes and no.
Unlimited tech support means I never have to remember how to do some nuanced thing inside the cavernous capabilities of the phone system. I just call tech support and make it their problem. Also, I’m the kind of guy who has super exacting expectations of my equipment. I’ll call tech support EVERYTIME something pisses me off about the phone system. In an on-prem system you have to use the manual and know your system really well. I have other things I need to focus on.
The cloud based system will never let you have a busy signal. That was top of my list, infinite scalability.
The cloud based system has a per-minute cost for phone calls and a flat rate per month. I’ll talk about why I didn’t pick other VOIP systems eventually but in this post it’s all about Digium.
I’m paying $15 per month per user. I have 10 users. I also pay 3.5 cents per minute inbound or outbound. My total costs per month are a little over $300 on average, depending on call volume. There are $5 upcharges per 800# of which I have 3. There’s some taxes too. Considering my first phone line in 1993 was 21.5 cents a minute for long distance, I think i’m doing pretty good.
What I specifically liked about this Digium system was they didn’t force me to buy minutes of service. My personal belief is that buying minutes is a really stupid business model for these competing VOIP systems. It’s a rinky-dink feel for the service you are buying and outside callers calling your business can feel the rinky-dink-ness when they call in. The pitches from these other companies was something like, Pay us $30 dollars a month and you’ll get 3,000 minutes!! 10 phone lines with 3000 minutes each is 30,000 minutes I’m not using for the same $300 I would be spending with Digium. Consider, your sales and customer service lines (people) might be on the phone over 3,000 minutes each but others on the scientific staff are almost never on the phone. So we burn through 3000 minutes and get hit with overages on the sales lines and have unused minutes on all the other lines that don’t transfer over.
When buying hardware (Handsets, desk phones) I could chose to not purchase them for people who get very low volumes of phone calls to their desk. Instead, they use a software app that loads on their cell phones. There’s also a computer based softphone if they want to call through their laptops. With 10 licences I only needed 5 handsets $150 each.