Phone System Options

(Brad Crawley) #1

We are evaluating and testing phone system solutions and we have it narrowed down to Office 365 Skype for Business/Teams and Ministry Business Solutions Hosted Phone Solution.

We like aspects of integrating with Office 365, but I’ve heard both good and bad when it comes with Office 365 Voice Solutions. Is anyone out there using it and if so, what is your take on the solution? If you were once using it and left the solution, why?

We have been using Ministry Business Solutions Hosted Phone solution since July 2018 at our Paragould Campus (because the provider at our main campus in Jonesboro cannot have services in Paragould) and have been happy with it. I wish they had a better (easier) interface for me to have more control over being able to change things myself rather than having to contact them when it comes to setting up speed dials, name changes, etc. They have provided me ways to do this myself rather than opening up a ticket for these types of things that I’m used to being able to do on my own. Other than that issue, their solution has been rock solid and is extremely economical and their support has been great (although it is pay as you go, which is probably why the monthly cost of the solution is so economical). It’s also a plus that there are no contracts.

Our contract is up at our main campus with our current provider and we are wanting to move to a solution that is economical, yet gives us expanded functionality of a mobile app for our cell phones, soft phones, and traditional desk phones. We would also like presence functionality, if possible, in conjunction with our Office 365 solution.

Thanks in advance for your feedback as we finalize our decision for this solution.

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(Chris Green) #2

I’m about to help an org deploy Microsoft Teams as their PBX using Direct Routing and Intelepeer as their SIP Provider. Really liking what I’m seeing with the product at the moment. We’ll know more about the fine details in a few weeks but I have a general idea on the costs and pros/cons of various methods of deployment. I’m not ready to compose a write-up about it but if you hit me up in Slack we can chat about it. I’ll follow up to this post in a few weeks with a full summary.

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(Royce Tanouye) #3

When you say “affordable” what price range do you have in mind? I have been looking into replacing our aging VOIP phone system and have mostly found hosted systems that range from $25 - $40 per line monthly. To me, that is a lot of money paid out monthly since we don’t really pay any service provider monthly. “Affordable” to me really means $15-$20 per line monthly, but maybe I am dreaming.

We could try an upgrade our current Shoretel system which resides in-house but we would have to upgrade our server, software, and most of the maintenance/upgrading work would remain here.

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(Brad Crawley) #4

Royce,

I’ll shoot you a private message, but the public message is the two solutions we are looking at now are way cheaper than $25-40/mo/line (we are paying around $30 now with our provider at our main campus which is why I’m looking at changing). Ministry Business Solutions has tiers that include up to X number of phones and X SIP trunks. I’m looking at cutting my monthly costs by 50-70% over what I’m paying now. The downside is you have to buy phones up front, but my ROI is less than a year so it’s worth it.

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(Jason Lee) #5

You should reach out to @dmast he has migrated a multi site org from Skype4B On Prem to Teams with Direct Routing.

We have gotten great milage out of S4B and probably will move to Teams eventually.

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(Brad Crawley) #6

@Jason.Lee Are you using S4B through O365? If so, how has your up-time experience been? Have you had any extended outages? How has support been with Microsoft? Those are my main concerns that I haven’t been able to get good information because I haven’t found many using it at this point.

Also, what solution do you use to provision your phones and update speed dials, etc? Do your users have the ability to edit these settings? From what we have found so far a lot of it is handled through powershell.

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(Jonathon Huff) #7

For those of you using SFB or teams, what are the benefits you’ve seen in your environment?

Our on-prem Mitel system is aging but I’m having pushback against a replacement because what we have works [usually].

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(Jason Lee) #8

We are S4B on prem.
We moved to Lync, then S4B and have found it to be great solution for us.

Provisioning plastic phones with S4b are plugin the phone, login with your domain creds done.
Speeddials and such are all contacts in S4b so the admin doesn’t setup anything it’s all contact lists for the users.

For all our O365 tickets support has been super responsive… but we aren’t doing VOIP with O365 so i can’t speak to that.

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(Nick B Nicholaou) #9

Hi Brad!

I apologize for MBS not serving you as well as you would have liked. We encourage our clients to communicate with us if that is ever the case, which is why we don’t require contracts. If we need to ‘up our game’, we want to know!

I’m glad to see you have found our service rock solid and economical. I understand you want to do changes on your own, and we’re always okay with that-- which is why we gave you access (very few of our clients want to do that!). I was unaware you were not happy with the interface we work with on the backend, but heard last week you may have a solution for that in hand now.

Brad, please feel free to email me directly (nick@mbsinc.com) if there’s anything we can do to improve your satisfaction with our service. We only serve The Bride of Christ, and are driven to do so in a way that makes The Groom smile.

Sincerely,

Nick Nicholaou
MBS, Inc.

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(Brad Crawley) #10

Hey Nick,

I appreciate the response and I definitely don’t want to make anyone think we are not happy with the solution we currently have at our Paragould Campus from MBS. Gary contacted me on Friday after seeing my post and told me about EndPoint Manager which appears to be what I’m looking for. I plan on buying it (since it is inexpensive) and having y’all install the plug-in so we can test and see how it works.

I have a co-worker pushing S4B and I’ve got a ton of questions as I’m apprehensive about S4B/Teams due to the expected pushback I’ll get from my users which is why I’ve been asking questions. Some CITN members have been gracious to let me pick their brains about S4B/Teams and while their information has helped alleviate some of the concern, I’m not convinced that it would be a better fit for us than the MBS system we are using at our Paragould Campus, especially if we get the phone provisioning system working! :smile:

My co-worker is like myself and very tech savvy but that isn’t the case with a lot of our staff, so we have to introduce a solution that will be embraced which is why I’m trying to do as much due diligence as I can! I was in a meeting today with our senior leadership and briefly mentioned the phone system options we are considering and they said, “I just need to be able to pick up the phone and make a call.” ha!

Thank again!
-Brad Crawley

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(Nick B Nicholaou) #11

I’m glad we got you taken care of, Brad. Serving well is always our goal; let us know if there are continuing needs. And regardless of the decision you make about this, we’ll endeavor to graciously help you through it,
Nick

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(Eric Eskam) #12

I don’t get the value proposition for hosted PBX solutions where there’s a monthly fee per phone. I know the arguments, but it seems like a pretty big extravagence to me. Perhaps I’m just too cheap :slight_smile:

I’m not saying this is the solution for everyone and if you are using a hosted solution and it makes sense for you - great! I’m not here to tell anyone they are dumb and should switch to “my way” - I present the below as an alternative point of view, and I’m thinking not so much about others who have posted in this thread per se, but folks who will likely come across this thread later. Hopefully that will quell any feelings that this post needs a rebuttal :innocent: Discussions are always welcome - crusades not so much (and I’ve done my share of crusading too :grimacing: )

We paid about $10K for an Allworx VOIP system with 40 phones and it supports five analog lines. It can handle six without needing more parts but we only needed five. We started with analog trunks because Internet wasn’t the most reliable when we got the system and it has worked well, is the same cost as digital SIP trunks and I see no reason to mess with something that’s working. The initial system cost including integration support and setup, a couple of POE switches and a UPS we could dedicate to the phone processor and the POE switches to keep everything up in a power outage. Myself and a couple other members (two who work for the phone company) pulled out the old KSU system we had and moved the server room cable terminations from the 66 blocks the KSU used to CAT 5 panels we needed for the VOIP phones. Thankfully the building was new enough that all wiring was CAT5 and terminated properly in the offices/classrooms so the only re-wiring we had to do was in the server room. The Allworx system came pre-configured (getting a good integrator is key!); we unboxed everything, mounted/distributed the pieces of the system and spent less than an hour with our integrator (who was remote) testing and validating the config. There were a few tweaks but it was up in less than half a day. While the Allworx web admin screens aren’t what I would call overly user friendly, they are way better than the KSU systems and reasonable enough that our admin staff manage extension and name changes with no problems since the system was installed. It’s certainly better than making admin changes through powershell (!!)

There is about another $1K for the cost of three year lease that’s now a distant memory (was probably less but I’ll estimate high) and we have had to have some ancillary support from time to time when we couldn’t figure something out on our own, so I’ll be generous and say $1K for that to just to be conservative.

All of the above costs look like the below if you take the overall system cost (TCO for those so inclined), divide it by the number of handsets and then as you spread those costs out over the years you can really see that fixed cost drop over time:

Right off the bat in year one I’m well within the other solutions and it gets dramatically better as the years go on. We are almost into year 7 right now and the system still just chugs right along - the money we would have spent in hosted solutions goes to other ministry needs.

Then again I could be off my rocker and completely missed something in my analysis - if so feel free to point out the fallacy of any or all of my assumptions :slight_smile:

Users love the physical phones. We have a few softphone licenses for people who want them, but the only time we ever used them was when people were on missions out of the country - again they worked great as long as Internet in the remote regions was passable (of course).

So many people are going the per line hosted route it feels like there has to be something obvious I’m missing. Maybe they just don’t have handsets in common areas? That doesn’t seem smart to me - yes, a lot of people have cell phones but having a hardwired phone nearby for emergency - life/safety/health - seems like a mandatory requirement to me. Phone batteries die, coverage can wax/wane. If I’m having a heart attack I want to get to a phone for help pretty quick and as much as possible be assured it’s going to work without worrying about batteries or coverage. Call me old fashioned.

Indeed, that was a huge driver for replacing the KSU system (other than we couldn’t maintain the KSU system - every change required a service call) - there were only phones in the offices and none elsewhere in the building and we did have a medical emergency in the children’s classrooms and getting help via cell phone was an issue (911 is far from perfect with mobile phones, even today).

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(Alex Conner) #13

Oh yeah, an On-Prem PBX when you have the infrastructure to properly support it is almost always going to be cheaper than hosted. Heck, 3CX and some soft phones is completely free barring usage.

The problem is, coming up with the capital to buy all new phones & PBXes can be pretty tough and a lot of hosted VoIP offerings will “throw in” hardware with a multi-year deal. They also tend to operate out of multiple data-centers, have DR plans in place and having phones not tied to your on-premise infrastructure gives you an extra level of durability and DR inherent to it. Also, with a really low user count, it can be hard to get over the original system cost vs. a hosted solution.

And, hosted VoIP gives you a lot of flexibility - if you outgrow your system or significantly downsize the numbers get way out of whack when you have to do an upgrade. Some of that is also helped by going with a software vs hardware appliance where it’s just a license upgrade to get more capacity.

As far as Teams goes, if you care at all about TCO you probably shouldn’t even consider that. It’s purely a convenience option because your users have one less app to deal with and you have one less system to administrate (though, 3CX v16 does a lot of integration with O365 so there’s very little to admin there as well).

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(Jason Lee) #14

I’m not looking to debate your position on this Eric, except to say when you isolate your PBX costs from a wholistic view of user support cost yes you can make the case that an on Prem PBX is far less.

However, in our case having not had PBX hardware since 2012 using Lync and Skype4B on prem and now moving to SkypeOnline, the idea of brining hardware back on site to manage a traditional PBX i think my IT staff would come after me with a pitch fork.

FWIW… in our environment, to add cloud PBX to what we are already doing with Office 356 (costs we are going to pay anyways for Office Apps, Exchange etc) the cost per person per year is just $38.00 per user per YEAR using our ISP’s dial-tone service. An OnPrem or Cloud PBX requires the same SBC equipment so the difference in cost there is a wash.
Yes over time that cost may exceed a PBX’s 10yr amortized cost, but also don’t have to manage said PBX either so there is soft cost savings realized that your chart doesn’t take into account.

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