Highly reliable, low-cost telecommunications services like T1’s and fiber have combined with hosted “cloud” services and advances in Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) digital phone systems. The result is hosted PBX services in the cloud. Over the last couple years I went looking for hosted PBX options for a couple of clients and after considering several competitors we selected Vocalocity.
|Voice Over IP (VoIP) – Image via Wikipedia|
Vocalocity made sign-up and set-up a breeze. As a reseller we walked through a well documented process to get our clients up and running. We went through a quoting process where the final quote and pricing was evaluated and then approved by the sales team at Vocalocity. With a quote, credit card, and a few approval documents (for number porting and such) signed Vocalocity had the account created within a day and had scheduled the number port from the existing Internet Service Provider (ISP) within a week.
Set up of the service was relatively quick and easy. All of the expected features where there, at least those you would expect from a hosted system. Even before the phones arrived we could go in and set up users, call groups, and voice mails. Unlike some competitors we were allowed to select any SIP phone we liked although they would only guarantee support on some of the more popular models. All the same, they had a great selection of quality, affordable phones available.
By the time we had phones to hook up we were ready to test the service. I highly recommend testing the service (any service, not just Vocalocity) for a a few days before you port your numbers. This gives you time to train your employees on the new system and work out wrinkles with regards to business process and functionality.
There were really not very many features that you expect from on premise systems that weren’t included, but everything was an additional cost. At times I felt like I was being nickel and dimed even though the actual total cost was very reasonable. Vocalocity could do some simplification and bundle more of their features in a base service to fix this although they may have to keep them a la carte to compete with the marketing of competitors.
There was some training, although it wasn’t extensive. As a partner we had dug in to the documentation and training videos ourselves and then provided training to our clients rather than just entrusting them to Vocalocity’s resources. It can be very beneficial to work with a partner that has performed Vocalocity installations and migrations before for first time clients. Maybe this has changed, but it would have been nice to have more personal training, not just documentation and web videos.
We used many of their features and found some we were missing and really wanted. Specifically, we were looking for the ability to select from multiple outbound caller ids for different phones on the system. We told their partner and support departments how important that feature was (along with several others) and were pleasantly surprised when they deployed those same features within a few months.
Support was good. The phone team all spoke English as a first language and were available when we needed them without excessive hold times. The documentation was good as well. The only caution I have here is that since Vocalocity doesn’t work directly with your ISP and doesn’t qualify line quality you may have mixed results with regards to reliability and call quality. Some competitors get around this by requiring you to purchase your internet connection through them… which has both positive and negative facets. Personally I preferred having full control over the ISP service.
I did hear a couple complaints from one client about billing issues. This was about the same time that Vocalocity hired a whole bunch new people and revamped several business processes. I have a feeling that they just got behind with the huge growth in their business. That doesn’t excuse dropping the ball though. I understand this has gotten better as they developed their new team.
On the whole I was happy with the choice to use Vocalocity and I would recommend them to small and medium businesses looking to move their voicemail/PBX system to the cloud… but only IF they have high-quality, reliable internet service.
Have you used Vocalocity? What was your experience like?
- Vocalocity vs. AT&T (quitecloudy.com)
- PR Resources: Vocalocity Gives SMEs Competitive Advantage (pamil-visions.net)
- A Better Telecommuting Option for Small-Business Workers (esbjournal.com)
Are You an IT Cave Man? – Part 1: Computer Servers
If you’ve been in a cave for the last five years you’ve missed some amazing advances in Information Technology. Yes, you are now an IT Cave Man! Most IT people know about Moore’s Law (approximately every 18 months microchip density doubles – increasing computer speeds) but microchip advances are actually one of the least important stories right now.
Five years is an eternity in IT and here’s what you need to get caught up. Reader beware… this is a long, but not complete list. It would be difficult to impossible to cover all of the various IT advances in just the last year, let alone five! If you have a favorite tech you feel I left out and should not have please comment to let me know.
I’ll tackle this task in three chunks:
- Computer Servers
- Desktops, Laptops & Mobile Devices
- Applications & Services
Here is what’s ancient, tired and wired – Part 1: Computer Servers…
Servers have come a long way since 2006. Quad-core CPUs are now standard and you rarely see a server with less than 8GB RAM. Blade servers became popular and then virtual servers revolutionized the whole category when you no longer required one server for one operating system. Finally, through virtualized hosted servers – once the homes of websites and ftp servers – became popular destinations for running software applications (SaaS), started providing platforms for developing and deploying services (PaaS) and hosting entire server infrastructures for customers (IaaS).
Server Operating Systems
Software and hardware advanced in lock-step with new features appearing to take advantage of the exploding CPU power, memory and storage on servers. With Windows Server 2008, virtualization became a part of the O/S in the form of Hyper-V and tools got better and better, eventually allowing for “servers” to be virtually deployed at a whim, without configuring new hardware. Cheap and easy virtualization from Hyper-V and VMware enabled the hosting of fully functional “servers” on the Internet, moving infrastructure offsite. As internet speeds increased, reliability was enhanced and better tools were developed, “cloud” services began competing with on-site servers… are the days of buying Windows and owning your own servers numbered?
|Windows Server 2003||Windows Server 2008||Cloud|
Server monitoring used to be the work for system vendors like Dell, HP & IBM. Their products are familiar to many and include OpenManage and Insight Manager. More recently Microsoft’s System Center Operations Manager (SCCM) has offered a standardized and easily accessible solution. The latest trend however is to cloud-provided services. Already widely used by managed IT service providers, hosted Remote Monitoring & Management (RMM) solutions provide most of the same benefits without requiring the hosting of dedicated monitoring hardware and hiring a new team of IT experts to run it. Vendors like Level Platforms and N-able have mature products that provide onsite and hosted versions of their product suites. They also offer integration with popular service automation platforms, e-mail and collaboration software.
|Alerts & Logging||OpenManage, Insight Manager, Nagios,
Storage has revolutionized the backup and disaster recovery industry. Serial ATA hard drives combined with Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) enabled high-capacity, low-access storage that has either replaced tape backups altogether or is used in a nearline or near-online function. This has enabled backups to occur to intermediate, relatively high-performance media and then to be later archived to tape for longer-term storage if necessary. Often, tapes are totally removed from the system and the nearline storage becomes the primary archival medium.
Backup software has also progressed. New technologies have enabled high-capacity storage media to store even larger amounts of data through impressive compression and now data deduplication. Through deduplication, similar or identical data is stored only once with changes being recorded only. In this way, two backup copies with only one bit of data changed only store the change rather than the full data set.
Combining hardware and software in appliances, companies like Datto and Zenith Infotech started selling integrated backup systems that were remotely managed and would synchronize data to the cloud for an off-site copy. While these systems have proved popular in small and medium businesses (SMB), larger enterprises need higher-capacity solutions and the cloud-synchronization of data is as of yet too slow for larger datasets.
|Tape, Optical||Backup-to-Disk||Data Deduplication, Offsite Sync|
Watch in the next few days for Part 2: Desktops, Laptops, & Mobile Devices.