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What I’ve Learned About Telecom My First Year In

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Written by Adam Klein

Before I joined M5 Networks in August of 2008, my knowledge of  Telecom was very limited.  In 2000, when the company I worked for became M5 Networks’ 21st customer (they now have more than 1000), I knew very little, but quickly became very lonely in the office.  We were a 7-person company and with the addition of managed IP phone service to our world, most of the staff started to work from home.  There were only two of us in the office on 9/11 and I was the only one there when the East Coast Blackout occurred a year later.  Eventually the company left Manhattan and I was soon working from home, too.  That Cisco phone sat on my desktop for the next 3 years until I left the company.  So, when I joined M5, I knew that you could work remotely, tie all your phones together no matter where you were and that the calls were going out over the Internet. I now work with some of the smartest minds in the IP world, for a company that was on the ground floor of the technology I learn more about everyday.  In my role in Inside Sales I get to hear what the outside perceptions are and what a business should know when considering VoIP.  Here are a few of those things that I feel are worth sharing:

People know about VoIP because of companies like Vonage and Skype or their local cable offering.  What I learned during my freshman telecom year was that it is impossible to guarantee quality of service if calls are being routed over the public Internet.  I speak with companies that, on a daily basis, experience dropped calls, latency and poor call quality. We have all experienced the Internet “slow-down” at home when too many people in the neighborhood are online.  Well, that same slow-down occurs in your office too; you are at the mercy of the bandwidth in your area. When it comes to calls it doesn’t matter how big of a pipe you have going into your business--the calls will hit the public  internet at some point. So of course many people have come to believe that VoIP is poor quality, or just not yet ready for commercial use.  M5 Networks does not put your calls on the public internet.  How do we do that?  We set up a private IP connection from your office to our datacenter.  It’s like when Moses parted the Red Sea:  your competitors are stuck floundering in the water and you get to walk a direct route across. 

I am constantly speaking to companies whose main reason for wanting to change is the desire to save money.  People think that VoIP is the cheap way to go and, before I joined M5, so did I.  It certainly is for residential use.  I have learned that for business class solutions there are so many variables that it just depends.  Companies with multiple locations, huge long distance bills and/or interoffice calls are good candidates for cost savings.  From my experience in the past year I realize that phones are not just about dialtone or, as I now term it, “cheap dialtone.”  Yes, there needs to be consistent dialtone, but with IP phone service that should be a given.  If your phone solution is not helping to streamline operations, as well as impact your bottom line, then it might be time for a review.  I am surprised when companies want to compare dollar for dollar on any service without discussing ROI.

In this day and age of technology, it doesn’t make sense not to back up data, and it’s no different when it comes to IP phones. You might have heard of the phrase Five Nines, which in the telecom world means your uptime is at 99.999%.  That translates to about 6 minutes of downtime per year.  Without a back-up circuit in place, it would be very difficult to maintain that uptime.  Ideally, if your T1 line goes down the system automatically does what we call a ‘hot failover’ to the back-up circuit,  creating a seamless transition for your business.  It’s also a smart idea to have a disaster recovery plan, alternately known as business continuity, in place so that with one call or email from an authorized user your phones can be routed to make sure your business stays up and running.  You back up your computer--why wouldn’t you back up your phones?   

Industry experts believe within the next century if not sooner all companies will be using IP technology for their phones.  The company I work for now may not be the right solution for everyone but I am convinced that an IP solution is the way to go.