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Boss wants me to research new office phone solution...I never asked for this

GaslightGaslight Registered User regular
edited August 2012 in Help / Advice Forum
So, as a bit of background, I work for a company which, among other things, is a reseller of VOIP phone systems. Currently in our (small) office (with less than 10 employees), we are using the same Aastra VOIP phones we sell to clients. The problem is that while these work pretty OK for calling thousands of numbers to leave 30 second messages, when they are being used as an everyday office phone system to take incoming calls on the same server as all of our other (heavy) internet traffic...they leave something to be desired.

This morning my boss threw up his hands and decided we're finding a new phone solution for the office. He wanted me to find out if it's possible to use the Aastra phones we've got with traditional phone service (it doesn't appear to be), and in any case find who can offer us the best (by which he means, I am assuming the best value, all other things probably being equal) plan to replace everything with traditional phone service that won't be at the mercy of server traffic and internet instability.

He gave me this task for my "research skills." My research skills are pretty decent for finding information on potential clients and markets, but my knowledge of this stuff is essentially nil. I just spent about two minutes looking at the business services side of AT&T's website, and...well, I think it was about two minutes, I think I briefly lapsed into a catatonic state.

Please help me figure out how to start with this bullshit. To make things worse, he hasn't specifically told me the parameters for our needs (I emailed him and he has yet to respond), but based on the size of the office and what we do with the system we have I am figuring on a maximum of ten actual physical phones and extensions, and perhaps 3 lines. Plus we do occasionally still receive a fax.

Gaslight on

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    DarkewolfeDarkewolfe Registered User regular
    Look up a bunch of VOIP providers. Call them. Explain the problems you're having and listen to their sales pitches. Use each call to educate yourself in order to ask more probing questions of the next guy. Eventually you'll start to understand the system a bit. Then pick the best 2-3 guys you've been able to find and ask them to set you up with a trial run.

    What is this I don't even.
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    GaslightGaslight Registered User regular
    Darkewolfe wrote: »
    Look up a bunch of VOIP providers. Call them. Explain the problems you're having and listen to their sales pitches. Use each call to educate yourself in order to ask more probing questions of the next guy. Eventually you'll start to understand the system a bit. Then pick the best 2-3 guys you've been able to find and ask them to set you up with a trial run.

    Sorry, perhaps I wasn't clear. We are done using VOIP for the office phone system. Period. Boss wants to go to traditional phone service.

    I guess I should also mention we are located in the midwestern US, lest some helpful but misguided person tell me about the attractive packages Deutsche Telekom has to offer or something.

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    The Crowing OneThe Crowing One Registered User regular
    I'll just say that for the faxing, look into efax (fax via email, usually) as the best, easiest way to solve that small issue.

    3rddocbottom.jpg
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    CogCog What'd you expect? Registered User regular
    edited August 2012
    Gaslight wrote: »
    Darkewolfe wrote: »
    Look up a bunch of VOIP providers. Call them. Explain the problems you're having and listen to their sales pitches. Use each call to educate yourself in order to ask more probing questions of the next guy. Eventually you'll start to understand the system a bit. Then pick the best 2-3 guys you've been able to find and ask them to set you up with a trial run.

    Sorry, perhaps I wasn't clear. We are done using VOIP for the office phone system. Period. Boss wants to go to traditional phone service.

    I guess I should also mention we are located in the midwestern US, lest some helpful but misguided person tell me about the attractive packages Deutsche Telekom has to offer or something.

    Replace "VOIP" with "traditional phone service" in Darkewolfe's post and follow the rest of his advice.

    Cog on
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    bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    You generally can't use VoIP phones with a dedicated system. I know avaya makes phone systems. Pretty nice ones too. Even has an ability to get faxes and send it in a file (one we use). We take a tif image and incorporate it into our paperless system. You'll probably want some form of PBX system, I imagine.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
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    Jam WarriorJam Warrior Registered User regular
    Research in these situations can really mean calling up a rep or two and letting them pitch at you. They want your money, let them do the work. Just be sure to get more than opinion rather than signing up to the first guy you see. Even if the person doing the pitch turns out to have entirely the wrong kind of thing for you, it didn't cost anything and you'll probably learn stuff from the failed bid that will help find the right provider.

    MhCw7nZ.gif
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    bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    Yup, any phone reseller should have a distributor and all that. Be prepared to pay for a copper line though. Which will be expensive compared to VoIP. Might be cheaper to get a second internet connection that's for VoIP only.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
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    GaslightGaslight Registered User regular
    bowen wrote: »
    Might be cheaper to get a second internet connection that's for VoIP only.

    Well, my boss was apparently wrong, as our tech guy tells me the phones actually already are on a separate connection and apparently they just suck because they suck. :?

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    bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited August 2012
    VoIP can be a shitshoot sometimes without proper packet shaping, especially if your ISP throttles VoIP traffic. The price point for copper-line is going to be higher than VoIP as well.

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
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    mrt144mrt144 King of the Numbernames Registered User regular
    bowen wrote: »
    VoIP can be a shitshoot sometimes without proper packet shaping, especially if your ISP throttles VoIP traffic. The price point for copper-line is going to be higher than VoIP as well.

    The worst is WCI uses VOIP and when they go down you cant even call em to get an ETA on restoration of service.

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    DjeetDjeet Registered User regular
    You are going to want a "phone vendor". You contract these people to do the PBX and Voicemail server install, pull wire, terminate phone jacks and sell you the equipment. Or you teach yourself how to become the phone vendor for your company (don't really recommend this unless you're brave, and it'll turn this into a multi-month project).

    The "highest value" solution is to buy a traditional phone system (PBX, VM, and handsets) off of Ebay (lots of people moving to VoIP) and do the install yourself or get an independent phone vendor/contractor to do the install and programming. Independents may not want (or have the experience) to deal with the brand you buy and also may not want to lose the markup they'd get from vending you hardware.

    You'd then still need dialtone service (and a bucket of minutes) from a voice provider. If you're not sure who to look at as a phone vendor you could just call up business voice service providers (or your ISP) and they'll surely have some mechanism to provide the install capability or give you a referral.

    Not sure how cost-conscious your boss is, but before you do all this you may want to look at the VoIP usage from the past couple of months, call up business voice providers, get a rate card from them, and determine what your voice bill is going to look like (add 20% to line rental cost for taxes/fees). That way you can pitch your boss: it's going to cost $N for the pbx/handsets/install, $X monthly recurring line charges, and around $Y monthly recurring for our long distance minutes usage.


    That all said, you shouldn't be having this problem. Spotty VoIP due to traffic means you've gear that is not QoS-aware and it isn't prioritizing traffic properly, or maybe QoS tagging at the handset isn't occurring properly, or maybe your handsets are shit or have a crappy codec applied. Either way as a VoIP handset vendor I'd think you'd have the technical resources on hand to fix this. Unless your ISP cannot deliver you service that's good for VoIP (which requires good metric different from bandwidth and latency, like jitter), then you'll need traditional voice lines.

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    zepherinzepherin Russian warship, go fuck yourself Registered User regular
    I am a big fan of having contractors handle all of the risk and do all of the work. Essentially you say this is the objective I want to achieve tell me how much it is going to cost to do that. Get bids from 5 or 6 contractors choose the lowest priced reputable person in the list draw up a contract and put them to work.

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    GaslightGaslight Registered User regular
    edited August 2012
    Well, after a further discussion with our tech guy, it seems the reality of the situation is this: the real problem probably has more to do with the infrastructure serving the 70-odd-year-old building our office is in than anything else. Any solution we go with to replace the VOIP system we have now is probably going to be subject to the same vagaries and limitations and basically be an initial and continuing expenditure of a lot of money for little or no tangible benefit.

    So basically the position we are in is doing research for the purpose of demonstrating that the whole thing is unfeasible and a waste to the bosses who don't understand this and just want their phones to work right 100% of the time, which is of course not going to happen.

    Gaslight on
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    FeralFeral MEMETICHARIZARD interior crocodile alligator ⇔ ǝɹʇɐǝɥʇ ǝᴉʌoɯ ʇǝloɹʌǝɥɔ ɐ ǝʌᴉɹp ᴉRegistered User regular
    edited August 2012
    Gaslight wrote: »
    Well, after a further discussion with our tech guy, it seems the reality of the situation is this: the real problem probably has more to do with the infrastructure serving the 70-odd-year-old building our office is in than anything else. Any solution we go with to replace the VOIP system we have now is probably going to be subject to the same vagaries and limitations and basically be an initial and continuing expenditure of a lot of money for little or no tangible benefit.

    What do you mean by "infrastructure?"

    Do you mean wiring? Network switches and routers? Internet connection?

    I literally came into this thread to say that the majority of the time, problems with VOIP phone systems have nothing to do with the phones or the servers or the software, but rather with the underlying network.

    The good news is that these problems are fixable, and usually for less money than a new phone system would cost.

    Feral on
    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.

    the "no true scotch man" fallacy.
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    bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited August 2012
    Yeah running some cat6 is cheap, and upgrading the switches, in comparison to upgrading to PBX and replacing all your handsets. Hopefully they're not sharing switches, or using a hub, with the actual network.

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
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    FeralFeral MEMETICHARIZARD interior crocodile alligator ⇔ ǝɹʇɐǝɥʇ ǝᴉʌoɯ ʇǝloɹʌǝɥɔ ɐ ǝʌᴉɹp ᴉRegistered User regular
    bowen wrote: »
    Yeah running some cat6 is cheap, and upgrading the switches, in comparison to upgrading to PBX and replacing all your handsets. Hopefully they're not sharing switches, or using a hub, with the actual network.

    You can share switches with the actual network just fine, as long as your switches configured properly.

    Using either QoS, or VLANs, or both is typically all that's needed.

    That's a pretty typical configuration IMO because it lets you use phones with two Ethernet ports. One port plugs into the network, then the computer plugs into the phone. The switches can tell which traffic comes from which device and will prioritize it accordingly.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.

    the "no true scotch man" fallacy.
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    bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    Ah indeed.

    I still hate VoIP.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
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