Comprehensive business VOIP solutions are too complex

As I wrote about a few weeks ago (Is VOIP Ready for Small Businesses?), I’ve been testing out the Vbuzzer VOIP solution, using a Sipura Ethernet to phone interface box and a cheap old telephone I had in the closet. So far, it’s working well and I’m impressed with it and quite pleased with VOIP overall.
But trying to figure out how to integrate it into my existing office setup is making my head spin, and it’s really a great example of the cost and challenges of people who are early adopters or even mainstream adopters. Sure, I can sign up for Vonage and get a “free” box similar to the Sipura, but what I really want is to transfer my existing business line to a VOIP system, transfer my fax line to a VOIP system, and then have a two line hybrid telephone where line one was a standard phone line, and line two was the VOIP business line.


After spending hours and hours digging around on different Web sites, from Hello Direct to Cisco and Polycom, I’m simultaneously impressed with the wide range of phones and baffled by the many options, none of which seem to exactly meet my needs.
But to be a really good business solution, I also need a second device to go with this setup: a highly compact headset that I could easily pack with me so that when I am in a hotel room or visiting a facility with high-speed networking, I can reroute my VOIP business line to that location. I’m sure that there are compact USB headsets that are VOIP compatible (and both Mac and PC compatible too), but, again, finding one is darn difficult.
Another concern I have is based on the fact that in the last twenty years I’ve only experienced one outage of a traditional phone service, but network outages seem to affect my office on a monthly basis. What happens to a call that comes into a VOIP line if the business network is down? Does it automatically roll over to voicemail at the VOIP service provider’s system (e.g., Vbuzzer or Vonage)?
Finally, there’s the Skype factor: many of my colleagues have Skype and I’d like to be able to communicate with them using the Skype service when possible. How would a VOIP telephone system support a USB “soft phone” capability? Or would the headset end up being called into service for this particular task?
Today my desk is full of phone devices, from the soon-to-be-returned Hello Direct multimedia headset device, to a two line GE phone, a Lucent answering machine, the Sipura VIOP interface device and the second telephone. It’s too darn much. I want a unit that offers me all these capabilities, and I believe it’d be the perfect office device for the next generation of telephony. Is it so hard to put all these pieces together and solve this problem?
And I have deliberate not mentioned one more issue: in my second office space, we only have wireless connectivity, yet all the VOIP to phone interface systems I’ve seen require a hard Ethernet connection.
Honestly, I think that there’s one heck of an opportunity here for some mainstream telephone companies like Panasonic or General Electric to work in partnership with the various VOIP providers to create hybrid, multifunction telephone systems that offer plug-and-play replacement capabilities for businesses that want to migrate off their existing solution, but perhaps gradually, or one feature at a time…
VOIP telephony experts, talk to me. Tell me what kind of solutions I could use, what kind of hardware would serve all the needs outlined here and let me sweep my existing telephone gear into a box destined for eBay and move my telephony into the new era.

10 comments on “Comprehensive business VOIP solutions are too complex

  1. Hi,
    I think what you are looking for is box that sits outside the PBX and it can route your calls over IP. In case of n/w problems, it should be intelligent enough to fallback to PSTN. That way, you don’t need to replace your internal telephone networking – you could pretty much use the same phone handsets that you have been using all these days. Would that help ?
    Thanks,
    Deepak

  2. Way late to this, but you may want to look at something like http://www.aptela.com/
    They can integrate VoIP along traditional phones (like your cell) via a hosted PBX (so if your broadband is down, the calls are still answered). It can be mobile via a soft phone if need be.
    All the tech is there for companies the question often is how they want to package and support it.
    Of course, many VoIP providers are re-packaging Broadsoft or the like so they don’t even own the tech. I know Atpela owns their own tech.
    As for wireless, it isn’t requried per se, but real questions exist whether it can support VoIP regularly. More of an issue with wireless rather than VoIP. YMMV.
    I don’t know of any that can integrate Skype though. That would be quite an interesting element.
    I think the big consumer electronic firms are hanging back right now letting smaller players fight it out (while Ayava and Cisco try to lock up the biz market). They don’t have to deal with the potential tarnishing of brand while the kinks are sorted.

  3. You want a never ending customer service nightmare? Then, go with Aptela. What does 5 million in just bagged venture capital mean? It means that they have ramped up their sales force without consideration to their support infrastructure. What does that mean to you, the customer?
    Stay the hell away.

  4. I agree with Kevin’s assessment of Aptella. We almost made the mistake of going with them, but thelack of and miscommunication and outright lying we encountered raised a red flag and we pulled out at the last minute. We had gotten far enough though that they had our credit card number. For the next several months they continued to charge our credit card random large amounts ($300-$2500). I was never able to get them to credit us or stop it. Each time I ended up having to go to our credit card company to get the charges reversed. Finally I had to cancel the card to stop the charges. We hadn’t ported our numbers yet, thank goodness! Probably never would have gotten them back.

  5. This is for all ppl interested in voip services have tringotel bcoz they have partnered with Sunrocket and there are additional features available in this company and the voice quality is awesome. I am using this service for several months and there are no issues till now.
    U GUYS ROCK!

  6. I looked at Aptella as well and chose not to go with them and went with a competitor (It was more money but you get what you pay for)that uses an enterprise Cisco CallManager with there own voice mail system they even hosted exchange email for us. It has been a GREAT solution for my company. check them out at http://www.calltower.com

  7. I want to thank you for yet another terrific article. I am always searching for original markting tips to recommend to my readers. Thanks for creating this post. It’s just what I was trying to find. Truly great post.

  8. Wow, I would stay away from Aptella at all costs. I was with them for 2 lousy months and switched my office staff literally yelled at me to get back over tot he phone company. What a waste of resources!

  9. Voip systems are almost here. There are too much information all around so people gets confused.
    Whats clear now is that we can use Skype phone for calling anyone anywhere… as for voip… Let´s wait a year or so and we ll see.

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