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Fonangle’s VoIP Delivers

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