SIP Trunking – Sharing is Caring

Submitted by Alyson Keenan

In today’s economy, everyone wants more for less.

That’s why smart businesses are looking for ways to operate more efficiently and to lower costs. And why so many are turning to SIP Trunking.

A SIP Trunking solution allows a business to send all voice traffic over its data network. This way, rather than having two networks to manage (voice and data), there is only a single network that requires less management and lowers costs. Some go further by consolidating their voice network to a single IP PBX that serves all business locations.

In having a single network to manage, companies are able to oversubscribe their network and get the most out of the resources they have to work with.

Multi-site companies that move to a SIP Trunking solution are able to utilize a capability called aggregate trunking. Aggregate trunking is the ability to provide voice services with a single call-control device or IP PBX to all locations that are on a single data network.

We’ll highlight several of the benefits of this solution.

Single IP PBX

In previous phone system deployments, a PBX call-control device would need to sit each customer location. The more locations a business had, the more PBX systems they needed to purchase and maintain. This could turn into a major expense. With SIP Trunking, customers can save by deploying a single IP-enabled PBX that provides voice services for all business locations.

Shared Resource

With aggregate trunking, businesses are able to use the available voice channels as a shared resource.  For example, if a company has locations across the country, their locations on the East Coast are able to utilize resources that the locations on the West Coast are not using due to the three-hour difference in business hours. With previous solutions, voice services were provided at the location level, so each location would have idle capacity that other locations were unable to leverage. Aggregate SIP Trunking saves you money by allowing you to purchase only the resources you need to share throughout the entire business.

Ease of Management

Ease of management is an important driver for many businesses when making decisions around technology. In previous voice system deployments, businesses were required to install and manage a PBX at each of their locations. This setup often required someone to have to go on-site when changes or troubleshooting were required.

In contrast, when deploying an aggregate trunking model, there is only one call-control center or IP PBX required. With aggregate trunking, you are able to manage all users across the business, regardless of their location, from a single host location. This allows for consistency across the organization and limits the number of elements in the network for troubleshooting. Needles to say, management is simplified.

Future-Proofing Your Business

When considering the transition to SIP Trunking, understanding the benefits your business will gain today is important. But so is looking to the future. SIP Trunking is a way to future-proof the technology your company relies on. Once you move to an IP-based system like SIP Trunking, you have more flexibility to layer new and additional technologies onto your network as your company grows or your needs change.

In addition to SIP Trunking, EarthLink Business offers a complete line of business voice solutions to help companies optimize their voice and data networks.

Click here for an EarthLink Business SIP Trunking PDF.

We rigorously test each IP PBX certified to work with EarthLink Business SIP Trunking solutions. For a full list of IP PBXs certified by EarthLink Business, please visit our SIP Trunking Customer Resource Center.

Hosted Voice – Total Cost of Phone System Ownership

Making the decision on whether to purchase a new system, go with a hosted voice solution or keep the old one running is somewhat daunting with all the options available in today’s market place.  The best place to start is to answer a couple simple questions.  Do you have the internal staff to support an onsite hardware based system?  Do you have specialized Customer Relationship Management software or Integrated Voice Response software? Do you have the time to invest in reviewing all the hardware options available and perform a total cost of ownership analysis?  If the answer is yes, then read on.  If not, a Hosted Voice solution may be a better choice for your business.  For more details on EarthLink Businesses offering visit us at hosted voice.  For those readers who want to explore the TCO model for a phone system here are the basics to get you started.

Several factors go into calculating the total cost of ownership, or TCO. Here are the key costs to include in your calculations when considering a move to a new phone system.

Planning your purchase: First, you’ll want to do a survey of your requirements, including how many users you’ll need to support, and what kinds of phones and features they’ll want. If you’re going to support multiple sites, you’ll probably need to do an analysis of your IP network to make sure it will be able to handle the new traffic it will have to carry with the required quality of service.  EarthLink Business provides this consultation as part of our engagement process for Hosted Solutions at no additional charge.

Upgrading infrastructure. If your network analysis indicates the need, you may end up spending considerable money upgrading your infrastructure. Particularly if you’re going to take advantage of the ability to serve several branches or sites from a single centralized IP PBX, you may require more advanced data equipment to carry the voice traffic back to the central location. Such upgrades can run as high as 50 percent to 100 percent of the cost of the telephony system itself.  Other possible preparation needs include providing additional air conditioning, equipment space or racks.

The purchase cost of the IP phone system. Moving to IP telephony opens up all kinds of new opportunities and choices to make. You may provide different users with IP desk phones, or softphones with headsets. With some systems, users with minimal needs may be able to keep using their old phones.  You will also want to evaluate the cost of the software licensing in addition to the hardware as a separate line item as the two can carry different cost components.
Installation and integration. You might buy and install a low-end turnkey IP telephony system yourself. If so, add the cost of staff time for the installation. The other option is to utilize one of the manufacturers certified resellers or VARs.  When going this route keep in mind there are still things that need to be done outside of installing the new system.  For example, integration with your support desk(help desk), linking the system alarms into your monitoring software for automated alerts and your email server for voice to email or other unified communications needs.

Maintenance. Maintenance contracts will be a major ongoing expense to include in your total cost calculations. But the contracts will be more complex than in the days of all-in-one phone systems. To start with, you may end up buying multiple contracts for hardware to cover equipment from different vendors. The annual cost will typically run from 5 percent to 12 percent of the list price of the equipment. Key factors affecting price is whether support is available only during business hours or 24/7 and whether service technicians come to your site to install parts, or you receive them by courier and have to install them yourself.

Utilities charges. Depending on your new system’s requirements, electricity charges for air conditioning and for powering the new system and phones could end up about the same as with your old system. They also could be significantly more, or even less. Either way, they will be part of your TCO.

IT staff. With a new IP telephony system, administration will likely be cheaper and easier. You won’t have to call the reseller you bought the system from every time you want to move, add or change users. But that means you’ll have to assign someone on your staff to at least oversee it. Thus while each operation may take less time, it will still cost money. An easy way to estimate the cost to administer a unified communications system serving a hundred users, figure on allocating one-fourth of an IT staffer’s time. For smaller installations, it does not decrease in a linear fashion because there are still base maintenance items and training that is required to keep your IT person current.
IP bandwidth requirements. One of IP telephony’s greatest benefits is that it allows you to consolidate the telephony functions for numerous sites in one place. That saves considerable hardware and staffing costs. But it also means you need additional IP bandwidth to carry all the voice traffic back to the central location over your corporate IP network. EarthLink Business can help you evaluate the bandwidth needs and provide a private network solution that allows you to maintain security while maximizing your bandwidth with our MPLS solution.

Obsolescence – Like any other piece of equipment, an IP PBX can become outdated. You can upgrade it, but at additional cost. At the end of the day it is much like your last laptop.  After a few years the technology is out of date and harder to support.

So, after going through the list if it seems daunting consider the following about a hosted voice (IP-PBX) solution from EarthLink Business:

No Capital Costs – All IP Phones and equipment can be packaged into a monthly recurring operating expense and allow you to implement.

Predictable Operating Expense – Monthly voice and data charges appear on one bill and include a full array of VoIP features, local and long distance minutes and internet bandwidth per month.

No Management Expenses – The VoIP service provider manages a range of IP service features in the network that are accessible by the customer via a self-service portal via myLink.

Obsolescence, with the EarthLink Businesses hosted voice solution we are constantly looking for ways to add new services and upgrade our platform to keep your business ahead of the technology curve.

EarthLink Nationwide Hosted Voice: We Sell Solutions, Not Just a Service

EarthLink Nationwide Hosted Voice is here to make your company’s day-to-day easier.

Given all the different business communications options that exist today, a business has to look beyond just the financial costs to understand what they are getting. I have seen some companies meet, greet, sell, and then disappear in a very short period of time. To some resellers, their customers are merely a dollar sign that they are looking to put on their balance sheets before the close of the month.

EarthLink Business wants to truly understand the way that you do business in order for us to become a trusted advisor. We always get excited about the opportunity to not only partner with new businesses but the chance to improve the way they conduct their day to day. As part of our process, we do a very deep dive into a company’s way of life. Standard procedure is for one of our reps to visit one or two of an organization’s locations and spend time with the people that utilize the phone system the most. Often some details are lost at the executive level of a company. It only makes sense that we understand the receptions’ day to day and the call center employees’ likes and dislikes of their current environment.

Once we truly understand how the business functions, then we are able to create a custom offering for the customer. We will enter the meeting with solutions for some problems that a customer may not even know they had. EarthLink Business wants to partner with its customers for a long time to come and this is one of the key components that set us apart. If we were just to look at a telephone bill, there would be no way to truly understand the company and how we can best help them.

I don’t know what component(s) of our product will change your business for the better, but I can tell you this….We have yet to find a situation that we didn’t cause a vastly positive effect. Reach out to us today!

Business Phone Systems – Are You Prepared?

During this time of year most people are focused  on celebration,  and a well-deserved time away from the office.  If you are not in the retail industry then chances are your business will slow down over the holiday and many employees will be asking for time off.  Managers and business owners are faced with the challenge of balancing the need to give employees time to enjoy their families, travel and holiday activities while still having resources available to respond to customers, internal teams and vendors to serve the daily needs of the business. While there are limited options available for some types of business that require employees to do tasks that necessitate you to be on site there are options for service related business like insurance, healthcare, real estate, legal firms and software companies. Here are a few ways to soften the workload and make it a happier holiday for all while staying connected:

  • Un-tether your employees from the office – To do this there are several tools available to make it easy for employees to stay connected from home or in their car while making the trip over the river and through the woods.
  • Call Routing from your business lines – This feature allows you to route calls to mobile phones, home phones or other business locations.  Some providers like EarthLink Business can even provide options to try multiple numbers simultaneously or sequentially.  To make it easy for employees and business administrators they can also build rules ahead of time to pre-schedule the routing options.
  • Auto-attendant – whether it is a traditional premise based phone system or a cloud-based auto attendant this front ends the incoming calls with a system generated greeting that provides the caller with options.  You can provide options for callers to get routed to a live person via re-routing to a mobile number or alternative phone number even for holiday or after hours if required.  You can also have callers leave a voicemail for critical issues and forward those messages auto-magically to an email distribution list for visibility by your employees on any email platform.  There are also options to set a schedule for the greetings and call treatments in advance of a holiday to make it as easy as turning it on when needed.
  • Voicemail – Don’t forget to have your employees change their voicemail to notify callers of the business hours during the holiday and have an alternate contact if they will not be responding during certain times. Once again a schedule can be set up ahead of time so they don’t have to change it on every holiday.
  • Soft phone or soft client access – If your employees must stay “online” during the holiday  these software based phones can be loaded on their laptop and taken home and remain active on home DSL or cable based networks.  Most software based IP providers offer the same functionality as if the user were in the office.  Coupled with network access to get to key applications like work email and key business software programs this makes a powerful way to stay connected without having to leave their homes or while on the road.
  • Lastly, make sure whatever tools you use to stay connected have web based portal access to allow for employees and office administrators alike to give you the ability to make changes on the fly without having to drive back to the office to make changes.

Here is wishing you and yours a happy, carefree and connected holiday season!