If you’ve had the same experiences we’ve had with our local phone company, you would also prefer to take your telephone service business elsewhere. I’ve spent too much time over the past several months, talking with a phone company representatives, dealing with billing issues, overcharges, wrong charges, you name it. Given the myriad of options for phone service, there had to be a way we could literally pull the plug on our local phone service and find a better, cheaper alternative.
My goal was to eliminate the billing issues, cut our monthly phone service bill in half, and duplicate the phone system we had been using for years. We are a central fabrication facility — a large warehouse where everyone is constantly moving around from work station to work station. We use several cordless handsets tied into a four-line phone system. The traditional phone lines use a rollover system, where if a caller dials a line that is in use, the call is immediately and seamlessly “rolled over” to the next available line, unbeknownst to the caller. Both the cordless functionality and rollover ability were crucial to the success of our system.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), or digital phone service looked like it would meet our needs. VoIP uses a high-speed or broadband internet connection to make and receive calls, and there are four equipment options to utilize VoIP service:
- Software: Uses a computer to connect calls (Skype or Vonage are two examples);
- Adapter: Allows a conventional phone to use VoIP;
- IP Phones: Special phones that can connect directly to the internet;
- IP PBX: Like a traditional PBX system — has an intercom, controls more than one line, and has other advanced features.
I don’t want to get too technically detailed here, as there are many resources to learn more about the nuts and bolts of VoIP, such as VoIP Review, which has many articles, questions and answers and reviews of providers.
Based upon my research and a referral from a trusted associate, I selected a business VoIP provider and ordered a IP PBX system. There are several options to choose from regarding the service for the PBX system, which you can find more detail here.
After the phones arrived, I discovered that setting up a VoIP system does require some technical savvy. It was not as simple as plugging the phone in and getting a dial tone. I had to schedule an appointment to spend an hour on the phone with a service technician, who guided me through the setup process, which did not go smoothly. It took several attempts, in addition to the initial hour-long phone call, to get the system up and running. I recommend that you pay attention to reviews of the installation process and focus on those providers that have favorable reviews regarding the installation and setup process.
You can have your current phone numbers switched or ported over to the VoIP system, and fortunately, you do not have to take this step immediately. You can have your VoIP system installed and test it for as long as you wish. Do make sure you check with the provider before you order your system to ensure that all your numbers are portable. In our case, our fax line was not able to be ported, but we had a workaround.
While the VoIP system did have some promise, in the end, it did not work out for us. After spending various hours in vain to get the VoIP system to duplicate our current system, it was looking like a lost cause. The rollover function was not working properly and the IP cordless handsets didn’t function as well as our current models. While I could have spent more time trying to get these issues worked out, I could not justify spending the time to make it right.
Also, the clock was ticking on our 30-day trial and given the cost of the equipment, I wanted to ensure there was plenty of time to return the equipment and receive our refund (which we did).
Fortunately, our traditional phone service works, and the only negative factor is the cost and the “mistakes” the local phone service provider makes on our bills (but that’s another story). I have several business associates who use VoIP phone systems and are very satisfied with the service. We have a unique environment, and sometimes the best course of action is to leave well enough alone.