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Author Topic: Point Me in the Right Direction Please -- adding business use  (Read 7831 times)
dabluebery
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« on: February 06, 2018, 07:53:10 am »

Hi. New here at forums but have loved Obi + Google voice as a land-line for many years. It works so well I've never needed help. But now I'm overwhelmed.

My setup is an Obi202 running two google-voice land-lines and simple cordless phones, and a 911 subscription. One line for my family, the other is my work "cell phone" that I use in my office and using the GV app on the road. The only thing that frustrates me is the outbound caller ID that I have no control over.

My business has two phone lines that are currently answered by a service. I hate that. My goals, roughly in order, are:

1) Take control of those phone lines so I can receive those calls directly and have an automated system in reserve.
2) Let my business partner be able to answer those calls as well, we both work remotely in separate houses.
3) Not lose any of my existing Google Voice landline functionality, if possible. It's 4 phone lines. My friend told me about shared call appearance, but this confuses me
4) Have an app so we can receive business calls on our cell phones, or at least voicemails.
5) Possibly bring over my ringcentral efax under the same umbrella
6) Have a virtual extension for a sales rep who also works remotely

I won't say money isn't an option, but I'm paying over $100/month for the answering service I hate and I'm willing to buy IP phones, or a phone system, if it works properly. I have so far resisted because I get confused with information overload and a fear that in making a switch, I'll lose something and wind up frustrated.

I have this mental picture of an elegant virtual phone system but in talking to a friend who sells [big] phone systems, he's not aware of it.

Some nudging in the right direction is much appreciated.
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OzarkEdge
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« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2018, 07:38:36 am »

You may be headed in the right direction... DIY VoIP.  Knowing your inbound and outbound monthly call volume, number of DIDs, and number of e911-enabled DIDs/locations might help choose a SIP provider.  I would not use GV for your business as it has 'free' limitations that can upset business use.

Have you checked out SIP providers VoIP.ms. Callcentric, and Anveo?  If you had gone with VoIP.ms at home, you'd probably see a direction forward now for your business.

Using a SIP provider like one of those above will allow you to manage your 'virtual phone system' in their cloud.  Then use end point terminals/user agents to suit the need... IVRs/automated attendants, softphones on mobiles, atas with corded/cordless analog phones/fax, IP phones, answering services...

>>1) Take control of those phone lines so I can receive those calls directly and have an automated system in reserve.

Check.

>>2) Let my business partner be able to answer those calls as well, we both work remotely in separate houses.

You and your business partner can SIP register your respective endpoints to VoIP.ms subaccounts.  Then they can have extension numbers for free internal calling/call management, dedicated DIDs if required, and location specific e911 service... if he calls 911 from his office, the 911 dispatcher gets his location address, and vice-versa.  And there are many call routing options you can configure in the cloud service... group ringing, call hunting, IVR, time of day restrictions, etc.

>>3) Not lose any of my existing Google Voice landline functionality, if possible. It's 4 phone lines. My friend told me about shared call appearance, but this confuses me.

To be determined.  Edit:  Know that your friend who sells big phone systems will naturally conjure up his usual list of sales points and system considerations, competition unseen.  Learn from him but know that missions like yours are co-opting his bread and butter.

>>4) Have an app so we can receive business calls on our cell phones, or at least voicemails.

A softphone extension on your mobile may suffice, subject to the idiosyncrasies of mobile devices/connections.  You can configure call routing in the cloud to include failover to voicemail.  VoIP.ms vm can be sent to e-mail as .mp3 or .wav (lossless) attachments.

>>5) Possibly bring over my ringcentral efax under the same umbrella

To be determined.  You can likely integrate your preferred fax solution with your preferred SIP provider.  FAX/SMS/MMS functionality over SIP varies with service and equipment, but tends to lag that same functionality over POTS/cellular.

>>6) Have a virtual extension for a sales rep who also works remotely

Check.  VoIP.ms offers 'unlimited' subaccounts/extensions at no additional charge.  VoIP.ms offers many and most of their features at no additional charge, which greatly simplifies your consideration and use of their extensive offering.  I have extensions in 4 locations, not counting the mobile softphones that travel daily.

>>Caller ID

VoIP.ms permits you to spoof the outbound CallerID sent from any extension... so set whatever CID you want, or require such as an e911-enabled DID for that extension's offsite location.

>>IVR

You can build an IVR/automated attendant in the cloud to process your inbound calls to suit your needs, time of day, virtual phone system extent, etc.  (You can use vm and .wav attachments to easily prototype recordings for setting up your IVR.)

You can get an account, add a small minimum deposit ~$25, and build your virtual phone system in the VoIP.ms cloud.  Use a temp DID to get it working and when ready, port in or forward your DID(s) to it.  If you like it, proceed, or shift direction a bit until satisfied.  VoIP.ms has a good learning environment; if you do move on, you'll be more prepared.  I never saw the need to move on although a business application may want to have backup service in the mix.

Finally, you might consider posting on the VoIP Tech Chat forum to reach more business phone system advice.  https://www.dslreports.com/forum/voip

OE
« Last Edit: February 07, 2018, 08:46:13 am by OzarkEdge » Logged

SteveInWA
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« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2018, 08:11:51 am »

Some additional information:

The services mentioned (i.e. Anveo, Callcentric and voip.ms) are great for tech-savvy users with the time and skill to "DIY".  There are better business-class options, that have all the features you listed, along with a powerful, easy-to-use web-based dashboard to set up, change, add, or delete services as your business evolves.  They also have better customer service, because they charge somewhat more, and can afford the support staff.  You can think of these as cloud-based systems that don't require any hardware at your location, aside from an IP phone at each desk.

Check out Dialpad, which was founded by the same people who built Grandcentral, the company that Google bought and turned into Google Voice.  Another possibility is Ringcentral.

You may be able to port your existing Google Voice numbers out of Google Voice, to the new service provider, and thus, have one less thing to change.

Here are the porting-out instructions:  https://support.google.com/voice/answer/1065667#xferout

Ignore the section heading in the article above, which refers to porting to a cell phone carrier.  It's inaccurate, and you can port to any US carrier that has a presence in the same rate center, or local telephone exchange.
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--Steve

Google Voice Forum Product Expert

https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!forum/voice
dabluebery
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Posts: 3


« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2018, 12:53:14 pm »

Thanks to both responses so far. Trying to accurately handicap my DIY tech ability, I am generally capable but usually tap out at doing things like registry editing or coding. I do my own cable and wiring work - my house has a 48 port patch panel, for example.

I'd lean towards the customer friendly interfaces especially because my partners and sales rep will have less ability than I do. Our call volume is reasonably low - inbound calls from our website are only a few per day, and we spent probably around 3000 minutes a month on the phone with clients handling business - around 2 hours a day...

So I would partner up with an SIP provider to grab all these phone lines, set it up in the cloud, and then grab IP phones. Right now I'm using the OBI 202 as a bridge to POTS phone lines, I guess anywhere I still wanted to use that, I could? But the IP phones would go directly to the Internet to handle my desk phone? I hope that's not a dumb question - you can tell I'm new to this.

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SteveInWA
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Posts: 5220



« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2018, 02:20:40 pm »

Nope, not a dumb question, and it is one indicator that you really ought to use a service that has some hand-holding support.

All of these Internet Telephone Service Providers (ITSPs) provide their customers with phone numbers to use (in the telco industry, they're called Direct Inward Dial numbers, or DIDs).  The ITSPs typically lease their DIDs from one or more large, Federally-regulated Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs).  They can also port your existing DIDs into their service, by having their CLEC host the numbers.  Only a couple of the ITSPs are themselves a CLEC -- Callcentric is the only one that comes to mind, and it's kinda moot, since they have a very small footprint, in the Atlantic coast area, like upstate NY.  Callcentric, for example, uses several other CLECs for most of their DIDs.

They then either sell or lease you IP phones, or they may tell you to buy your own IP phones.  They can often remotely provision the phones for you, so you don't have to know how to do that.  An IP phone is the equivalent of an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) like an OBi 200/202, built into a telephone.  You typically get better sound quality and in certain circumstances, can use HD Voice calling, because it eliminates the ATA<-->analog phone interface.

The easiest way to wrap your head around this, is to just think of these companies like the old fashioned Bell System, where they do everything for you.
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--Steve

Google Voice Forum Product Expert

https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!forum/voice
dabluebery
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Posts: 3


« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2018, 04:12:24 pm »

Many thanks for bringing me more up to speed. My lack of understanding has led to months of inertia, because I've been fearful of making a misstep. I already have a ringcentral account for an efax - I will probably just expand my account to include a virtual phone system.

I'd port over my GV #'s first, to get familiar before I mess with my inbound phone calls for the business.

I guess the last question I have for now is, assuming that I use ringcentral to grab all of my phone lines and set up a virtual phone system for my office using an IP phone, would I be able to still configure an OBI to bridge to the analog phone lines in my house so my wife can keep her landline, currently obi202/GV?
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OzarkEdge
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Posts: 182


« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2018, 04:27:13 pm »

>>I'd lean towards the customer friendly interfaces especially because my partners and sales rep will have less ability than I do.

VoIP.ms' account management portal is friendly enough.  The primary DIY challenges:

o  discovering the available resources and how to use them for your solution;

o  Configuring devices/firmware... provider's offer supporting documentation and there is online help as is evident here;

o  Commissioning VoIP at each location.  It's often plug and play, but some lessor/older routers can be troublesome.  You would likely prepare and prove operation on your LAN, and then visit remote sites (if necessary) for deployment and to work out any site network issues such as upgrading to decent Internet service, disabling any SIP ALG/Pass-Through setting in the router, upgrading to a decent router, and/or setting up router QoS to preserve some minimum bandwidth for VoIP traffic (VoIP requires about 80Kbps per SIP channel/call, so QoS is usually not a problem unless your LAN is busy).  The remote user just needs to know how to use their devices and perform typical phone system call management... not maintain the system;

o  Being prepared to troubleshoot equipment/service yourself instead of calling someone to do this for you... I doubt any ITSP offers onsite service, so you'll be on call.  Not a big deal, if you are the system builder already managing your own computing resources.

>>Our call volume is reasonably low - inbound calls from our website are only a few per day, and we spent probably around 3000 minutes a month on the phone with clients handling business - around 2 hours a day...

VoIP.ms rates https://www.voip.ms/en/rates/united-states

Your costs will include the flat outbound rate, and the per minute or flat inbound rate, plus any DID and e911 fees.  Note that VoIP.ms counts minutes in 6 second increments.  Also, VoIP.ms offers free toll-free outbound over value routes... likely plenty good enough.

>>So I would partner up with an SIP provider to grab all these phone lines, set it up in the cloud, and then grab IP phones. Right now I'm using the OBI 202 as a bridge to POTS phone lines, I guess anywhere I still wanted to use that, I could?

Use any SIP endpoint device you want.  ATAs work fine and adapt analog devices to digital VoIP.

You may discover that you don't need as many phone numbers.  One DID can be routed to many VoIP destinations.

>>But the IP phones would go directly to the Internet to handle my desk phone?

An IP phone connects directly to the LAN... no analog bits required.

>>I guess the last question I have for now is, assuming that I use ringcentral to grab all of my phone lines and set up a virtual phone system for my office using an IP phone, would I be able to still configure an OBI to bridge to the analog phone lines in my house so my wife can keep her landline, currently obi202/GV?

I'm not familiar with RC, but you can continue to use your GV-OBi analog house phones... the OBi is just another device on your LAN.

This is to help illustrate what can be done, not what you should do.

OE
« Last Edit: February 07, 2018, 04:31:40 pm by OzarkEdge » Logged

SteveInWA
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Posts: 5220



« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2018, 04:42:58 pm »

>>I'd lean towards the customer friendly interfaces especially because my partners and sales rep will have less ability than I do.

VoIP.ms' account management portal is friendly enough.  The primary DIY challenges:

o  discovering the available resources and how to use them for your solution;

o  Configuring devices/firmware... provider's offer supporting documentation and there is online help as is evident here;

o  Commissioning VoIP at each location.  It's often plug and play, but some lessor/older routers can be troublesome.  You would likely prepare and prove operation on your LAN, and then visit remote sites (if necessary) for deployment and to work out any site network issues such as upgrading to decent Internet service, disabling any SIP ALG/Pass-Through setting in the router, upgrading to a decent router, and/or setting up router QoS to preserve some minimum bandwidth for VoIP traffic (VoIP requires about 80Kbps per SIP channel/call, so QoS is usually not a problem unless your LAN is busy).  The remote user just needs to know how to use their devices and perform typical phone system call management... not maintain the system;

o  Being prepared to troubleshoot equipment/service yourself instead of calling someone to do this for you... I doubt any ITSP offers onsite service, so you'll be on call.  Not a big deal, if you are the system builder already managing your own computing resources.

>>Our call volume is reasonably low - inbound calls from our website are only a few per day, and we spent probably around 3000 minutes a month on the phone with clients handling business - around 2 hours a day...

VoIP.ms rates https://www.voip.ms/en/rates/united-states

Your costs will include the flat outbound rate, and the per minute or flat inbound rate, plus any DID and e911 fees.  Note that VoIP.ms counts minutes in 6 second increments.  Also, VoIP.ms offers free toll-free outbound over value routes... likely plenty good enough.

>>So I would partner up with an SIP provider to grab all these phone lines, set it up in the cloud, and then grab IP phones. Right now I'm using the OBI 202 as a bridge to POTS phone lines, I guess anywhere I still wanted to use that, I could?

Use any SIP endpoint device you want.  ATAs work fine and adapt analog devices to digital VoIP.

You may discover that you don't need as many phone numbers.  One DID can be routed to many VoIP destinations.

>>But the IP phones would go directly to the Internet to handle my desk phone?

An IP phone connects directly to the LAN... no analog bits required.

This is to help illustrate what can be done, not what you should do.

OE

You have gone completely astray from the concept of consultative selling -- understanding the user's business needs, level of technical expertise, bandwith to spend time on futzing with settings, and other activities that are not the core competency of their business.  For example, a customer could build their own desks, plumb their own sinks, stripe their own parking spaces, install their own signage, and wire up power and network cabling, but it would waste precious time that is better devoted to building and running the actual business they are selling.  The large majority of small and medium-businesses that fail to focus on their actual mission and core competency fail within a couple of years for this very reason.

I would never, ever recommend that a SMB environment use a barebones DIY provider like voip.ms.  Sure, they have capabilities, but their web site and wiki are abysmal, their live tech support is almost nil, and the user is left to their own to spend time on forums like this figuring out how to build a business telephone system.  That paradigm is obsolete for business.

Even on the large enterprise business side, corporations are abandoning their own data centers, and moving most of their work to cloud-based solutions from Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, Google, VMWare, etc, and dumping their old PBX equipment for cloud based solutions that integrate audio and video conferencing, softphones, mobile phones and desk phones.

On the consumer side, you'll notice that there are very few pure-play SIP ITSPs left that market to the general consumer public.  Vonage and 8x8 were two of the first, and their market share is tiny today.  The large majority of residential and small office users now get their telephone service from Comcast or whatever other "triple play bundler" sells cable-based service in their area.
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--Steve

Google Voice Forum Product Expert

https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!forum/voice
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