My old men fell under the impression last year that he’s not too old to start a new company and / or that retiring is for pussies. Two old business partners felt the same way and said Let’s do it (this is a psychological phenomena known as folie à trois). A maritime shipping brokerage. Basically they sweet talk people into giving them a clump of dough to rent a big ship for a while during which time they do their best to sublet it to other people hopefully for more money than what they’ve committed to pay, repeat.

Among their many hurdles in starting this up is a rather finite amount of money, just enough to buy an office about the size of a mid-sized U-Haul truck, furniture and pay for the bare minimum to get online with computers, Internet and phones. So I got them each one of those IBM all-in-one 19” units for about $350 apiece, a 7mbps/768kbps DSL (that was the best connection I could come up with in this particular building) and some Google Apps accounts. Got that humming but one big piece of the puzzle was missing, phones.

Some of you may recall my old SIP adventures so VoIP was on my mind from the beginning. They’d be calling countries like Greece and Singapore quite a bit. They couldn’t all share one line and I wanted them to have some of the frills you get with a PBX without buying and administering a PBX. So I googled around for hosted pbx voip and came across Fonangle. Got a good feeling talking to these guys and their international long distances prices were right – two cents for every country these men would be calling, also unlimited domestic, reasonable monthly, no contract. My main concern however was that our outgoing bandwidth was tight, about 700kbps. That’s not much elbow room for three men, three computers and four phones. Can’t have calls failing but a faster pipe was not an option.

So they put together a package (they resell equipment after configuring all of it for their clients who want that – reasonable markups, I checked) including a QoS router to allocate enough muscle to the phones as needed. Only a few forms to sign, four phones and the router in the mail in a week. Plugged it all in, they tested it remotely, looked good to go. Next day, had them port our number from Verizon which they did smoothly, no interruption on the DSL and voila, working phone system, working Internet, working everything, phones that were both simple to operate and had all the whistles they had grown accustomed to earlier in their professional lives plus a whole lot more I’m still discovering.

The call quality is right, absolutely indistinguishable from analog. They’re not giving me a free month to say that, though asking them wouldn’t have been the dumbest idea before writing this.  I stress tested it, three phones at the same time plus a few computers watching Youtube, no degradation, no choppiness. If there’s a downside to this VoIP move, I haven’t found it. As for this particular company, very easy to get them on the line for help, they can log into the phones themselves remotely to tweak things for you. Good people.

This was a plug and play deal. Plugged it in, called my cell, my cell rang, I spoke to myself, then did the same thing in the other direction. Perfect. No screwing around with SIP credentials, they took care of all of that. I could have done it but I’ve got better things on which to spend my time, like writing these golden articles for you.

As for the hosted PBX, I had been giving the company requests verbally but an hour ago I decided it’s time to see if I could handle it and logged in. These men only wanted one voicemail box and though it was capable of emailing everyone a notice and a wav plus blinking the phones I figured what the hell, why not patch it into a Google Voice number to email them all transcripts and recordings. Took me five minutes to make that happen, my first spin inside the PBX configuration.

A few decades back one of my dad’s partners had a bad spill skiing, paralyzed neck down. No matter, suited him up with a Plantronics USB earpiece which lasts all day and a SIP client on his computer so that he’s just as effective as the other two in communication by being able to manipulate an oversized trackball and voice recognition. Without that he’d need someone to dial each time. That alone would make this whole thing worth it.

They’re hooked up now, no bad surprises, no shady fine print and random extra charges. The other partner figured out the basics of the phone himself so I don’t have to teach everybody everything. He’s the type of person beyond the halfway point in life who’s not afraid to see what happens if he hits the Menu button, you know what I mean? At one point yesterday one of them noted that he wasn’t sure what they’d have done without me. I told him that that was a pretty good question.

They’re good to go, there is zero downside I have encountered with going VoIP for a business and a ton of perks from the cost savings to the power of a hosted PBX  in addition to the nature of SIP and some guys you can call to deal with things you can’t figure out yourself. If they wanted I could patch them in on their Blackberries with a sip client but they’re too old for that shit.

Before the day of the number porting I made sure Verizon would be willing to surrender the precious 212 area code number and to arm the VoIP company with every bit of information they needed to extract the number from Verizon. The guy eventually asked me why I was going VoIP, what was lacking with Verizon. I hadn’t written this article yet so I just said, even though it turned out to be the opposite, “It’s complicated.”

This was a pro bono gig for me, helping my old man, but now that I’ve gone through this and know what to expect, kind of like an internship except I’m not a teenager nor is there a receptionist to receive me the way I like, for my next gig in a larger outfit if while talking Google clouds should VoIP comes up in conversation, I can continue to participate in that conversation with just enough authority to go home afterwards thinking I might get paid finally for helping my pops. You’d think living just four blocks south of the boarder to Harlem you’d be enjoying relatively cheap rent – wrong. Missed that Gentrification Train by twenty years.

There are plenty of fish in this sea but if you want my guys, here’s their website. They may not be as big as Level3 but at least they’ve got enough stones to post their rates.

Doug Simmons


  1. Great article and I could not agree more. I have had a similarly good experience with Fonangle and glad someone took the time to give these guys some kudos, they deserve it.

  2. Noted Simmons.

    My company is two things with regard to going voip: A) In desperate need of not spending so much to call people and B) afraid of change. Me, in this case I’m afraid of A) latency, but from what I’ve tested in other offices and what I know about our bandwidth, actually I’m not afraid of that.

    Going from POTS with our own PBX which looks like it was made in the 70s we pay someone $300 to come in from Jersey each time we need to change a hunt group or whatever they call it (even though they could easily do it remotely by sharing a web session and VNCing to the PBX from any of our computers… but that’s not in our contract — argh don’t get me started on those A holes. Not even taking into account our Blackberries our land line bill from Verizon so big that when the last guy got laid off even though I’ve been begging the bosses to wake up to the dozens of ways we could spend so much less.. sigh.

    Everything you just said is no news to me and I’ve been flying under the radar to make it happen for us not just to save cash but on principle not to blow money needlessly. I’ve been secretly meeting with Cisco, already have our phones and service plan (sorry Fonangle, spent too much time on this, if it’s happening for us at all it’s what this Cisco guy put together to me). Now when the timing’s right I’ll spring it on management.

    I’d bet about 30% of that bill, and domestic ain’t unlimited for us, is personal shit. I shouldn’t be paying layoff buffer and Christmas bonus money so the CFO can call his dating service using company time and resources. It would be nice to fire up the hosted PBX’s web interface and route his next call to that number to a funny little wav file I’d cook up. Now that would be fun.

    Just venting here, not much to add. Anyway, glad you are enjoying your thing, high five for helping your old man like that. Good in the IT world to have relationships with people whose business model isn’t wrapped around sweet talking themselves into contracts and then screwing and screwing and screwing the customer and screwing him again. Two cents a minute international, them’s Google prices. Not bad at all.

    Safe bet some guy from this provider of yours will be reading this so to whoever that guy is, good luck and if things get tight just remember that over time people are steadily pulling the POTS plug in favor of going in your direction. Hopefully for your sake that is happening at a faster pace than competition for you pops up. Lots of fish in this sea indeed. But I think there are even more people in my boat who just need a little nudge to tilt over the edge, a nudge which time will nudge into them with an accelerating pace as more people hear from others or read success stories like this.

    Thanks Simmons. Write a follow-up (put that in your Google calender, Google boy) on how well these guys are doing (or are not doing…) in a month or two. Seriously, put that in yo’ damn calendar.


  3. “It’s complicated.”

    Really? But your article was only twenty pages long, how is that complicated. Well at least you used pictures.

    You know what I don’t get? Drives me effing nuts man. I know this was before your Google obsession but back in the day we had this thing called Gizmo5 which allowed for pretty good free sip calling over both wifi and 3G with our phones. When you first run into that situation in life you think, Hey, Google out to use this in Google Voice and make it really simple out of the box. And then one day (Nov 2009) Google comes in and buys Gizmo5, then you think All right, nice, Google’s actually going to do it and they’re going to do it fast, making it easy for themselves just by buying up someone else who already has it working and rebrand the software.

    And then months turn into years of nothing happening on the phone side of this (though they did sort of deliver this for computers), and along that path you begin to think Hey wait a minute did Google just do this to put stop to this free calling to appease the carriers? Then a little more time passes and you think Yeah they probably did. Then you think Aww come on Google, stick it to those carriers. After which you think Well I guess I can understand wanting to maintain good relations with those guys to an extent. Then you think it’s time to stop thinking out loud on a blog.

    Nice, snagged that 212 area code. You know why that’s the most precious of the area codes, right? Surprised both that you were issued one in the first place, let alone some VoIP operation managed to get Big Red to surrender the number. When the number was ported how much downtime was there?

  4. Nice, snagged that 212 area code. You know why that’s the most precious of the area codes, right?

    Nice indeed. Got one for my cell too. Wasn’t easy, takes a lot of determination and a time machine to go back six or so years when these carriers had more to cough up.

    Yes I know why. Firstly, the historic/romantic reason, that while following the rules of the North American Dialing Plan, it is the fastest area code one can dial on a rotary phone. Which of course means that New York, Manhattan to be more specific, is the most important place in the world.

    Also it has a nice ring to it. :)

    The porting was instantaneous. I think I was on the phone at the time actually and they just said okay it’s good and I dialed my cell on another line and the caller ID was right. Just like that, no problems. No problems with the DSL either, another concern as this was a single line for both voice and DSL.

    As much as I love Google, GV for two or more people collaborating with other people remotely one way or another to make a living just doesn’t cut it. Gotta have that PBX and I can’t think of any reason you’d want to run your own rather than go with a hosted PBX service like this. Nothing good was lost by this switcharoo, a whole lot of goodness was gained.

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