Clem Wyman CEO of ValuLink Technology Solutions once again contributes his expertise in IP Communications for Focus.com.

Clem Wyman CEO of ValuLink Technology Solutions once again contributes his expertise in IP Communications for Focus.com.

  • What percentage of your new sales in 2011 will be IP Communications (SIP and Hosted) and how much will be “old Technology” (PRI and pots)?

We’ve been selling SIP trunks — and to a lesser degree, hosted — since 2004.  Although we’ve seen sales steadily grow year over year, last year was the first time our SIP/hosted sales truly rivaled “traditional” product sales.  There continue to be a lot of phone vendors who advise customers to avoid “IP” in favor of traditional products only to have us bring in IP-based dynamic T1s and PRIs — products I’m leaving lumped into the “traditional” product category for the purposes of this response. We are finally starting to see that change as more and more IP PBX manufacturers push SIP to go with their SIP enabled products. Yes, we still sell a lot of POTS lines, but we’re talking multi-location customers with one or two lines per location or we’re talking alarm/elevator/modem/etc., support lines. What is unmistakable is the up-tick in interest in hosted services in the small business space.  “Traditional” may hold its own with SIP for another year, but from where we are sitting the pendulum is really close to crossing the median and may well make it across in 2011.

  • “Why wouldn’t I use Vonage as a business phone service?”
  • I run a small office, and we’re moving over to VoIP. What are the benefits of using a “business” branded service like Vocalocity, as opposed to something like Vonage?

We have a lot of customers using either VoIP hosted services, SIP trunks supporting premise-based equipment, or a combination of both, but those are primarily larger customers for whom we can deliver service solutions that provide Quality of Service (QOS) across the entire network with 99.999% uptime Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

With smaller customers and connections that go direct to the public internet (usually cable or DSL), we still try to maximize the odds of the customer having a good experience.  That means dealing with business grade products whenever and wherever possible.

For example, we recommend synchronous DSL (i.e., 768K x 768K) versus “best effort” products (i.e. cable broadband or, say, 6M x 768K asynchronous DSL), but since “slower” synchronous speeds cost more than “faster” asynchronous products, that’s frequently not an option — especially when the customer is a heavy bandwidth consumer for applications other than voice.  When that’s the case, as it frequently is, we need to test the customer’s connection for latency and jitter to determine if the connection will reasonably support voice and, if so, how many simultaneous calls are viable before degradation is likely to set in.  No matter what the answer is to those questions, we want the customer to have a router that can at least provide premise-based QOS so they won’t shoot themselves in the proverbial foot.

So what about VoIP service providers for the SMB space?  Our first rule is simple: if the provider also plays in the residential space, we don’t play with them. It’s not that you can’t have a good experience with some of those crossover products.  You can.  But with so many variables involved that we can’t control, we need to control all we can, especially since the money differential involved is often pretty small.  If the customer has a service issue, we want them to reach support quickly and we want the person they speak with to be someone who deals exclusively with businesses. It is amazing what a difference that alone can make relative to ultimate customer satisfaction levels.

Now, as far as which company might be the best match for a smaller customer, the fact is there are several providers out there who are very good. Unless the customer is speaking with someone pushing the only thing they have to sell, to narrow it from here would require some conversation with the customer about preferences, needs, growth plans, whether hosted or dial tone replacement is the better fit, etcetera, etcetera.

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