I had a 10-year-old NEC PBX. Two analog trunks, eight or 10 digital phones, and a bunch of outlets wired for analog phones from the days in which guests needed to access their corporate networks through a modem connection. The voicemail card failed. To replace it would cost a couple of thousand dollars. I went with voicemail in the sky while I plotted a long-term strategy.
I figured it was time to investigate IP telephony. I wasn’t satisfied with the quality of the services of the low end suppliers like Skype. I figured I had two main options, an IP PBX, or a cloud-based IP PBX service. I checked out the alternatives in both categories.
I looked at three cloud-based services: Fonality, 8×8, and Appia. Their pricing, while probably appropriate for an office, didn’t work very well for a home user. They expected that the traffic would be driven by the number of phones, which is not true in a house, where the traffic is driven by the number of people, and the number of phones is a function of size of the dwelling plus convenience. In my case, with a large number of phones, but very little usage for each phone, none of the quotes made economic sense. In addition, I was concerned about the holes I would have to punch in the firewall for each telephone. Since voice over IP traffic is carried by UDP packets, which are by their nature risky from a security perspective, I wanted to understand in detail what changes I would have to make to my firewall and what security risks would result. Fonality didn’t even try to answer my questions about what holes to put in the firewall; 8×8 gave me vague answers and incomplete configuration information. I never got closure with Appia. I decided to look at an onsite IP PBX.
The cloud-based IP providers must be hungry, because I encountered some pretty aggressive salesmanship when dealing with them. Fonality was the worst; in our first telephone conversation, the salesman wanted me to sign up right on the spot, and hung up on me when he realized that I wasn’t going to. I wish that salespeople, when they don’t know the answer to a question, would say something like, “I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll research it and get back to you.” Instead, they often try to make something up. I’m not sure why. It never helps make the sale, and it ends up decreasing the chances of my buying what they’re selling. When I find out that what they told me is wrong, that hurts their credibility for the rest of the discussion.
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