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    Are you ready to ditch ma-bell?

    Are you ready to ditch ma-bell?

    One of the mistakes that organizations make is failing to change with the environment. I always share with Church leadership teams that they should be asking themselves, at least annually, why it is that they “do church” on Sunday (or whatever chosen day.) I would venture that most churches have a pretty solid and defensible answer to that question.

    But what if times changed? Social, political, or any number of different areas that make up an organizations operating environment could change at any time. If you fail to ask the why questions, then there’s a great chance that you will be in the “too late” mode when you finally realize that circumstances changed and you have to react. Cutting edge organizations call it re-invention – constantly challenging the status quo areas in their organization. If as an organization you constantly challenge what you do and how you do it, then you will remain fresh, and on the leading edge of what you do – not always playing catch up to the latest organizational fad.

    One of the things that has changed very little in organizations for about 100 years, up until the most recent turn of the century, is telephone technology. Our copper line-based telephone system is nothing short of amazing – providing near perfect call quality, and near 100% uptime. It’s even spawned a term that has been used beyond telephone reference – you will often hear near 100% uptime referred to as “Dialtone.” The reference is that every time you picked up the handset of your bell system phone, there was a dial tone. That kind of performance does not come without a cost, as any organization with more than one or two lines coming into their office will tell you.

    And up until the early ’90s, when for many organizations, the telephone was the primary communication tool, nothing less than 100% uptime was acceptable – or you were out of business.

    Throughout history, things come along that are disruptive, and they undermine the very way we think about things – and to me, this is not a negative. Consider the iPod – many credit it for changing the very way the music industry does business.  But it also had at least one other disruptive influence – for many of us, it changed the way we listen to music, and in some cases, the level of quality we will tolerate (MP3 compression.)

    Cell phones are another everyday item that have completely changed the way we communicate. But a lesser known influence that cell phones had on us was teaching us to tolerate lesser phone call audio quality. How many times have you “stepped on” someone else’s words because you spoke faster than the delay that is inherent in digital cell phone audio compression? If you were not alive in the 1980’s I can guarantee you that if your home or office phone had that behavior, you would have called the phone company in minutes to have a technician come out to fix the problem. In addition, cellular phone audio quality is less than a traditional copper land line – as a result of the compression.

    Compression is not all bad – it’s allowed the cellular providers to get 50 calls plus data on a single radio channel at the same time – something that has cause the price of cell phone technology to be reachable by almost every economic level of our society. It is because of this, that in most of the socio-economic levels that we run in, it’s a given that most everyone has a cell phone, and most of those individuals have smartphones.

    Ask any organization if they could survive without a phone system for more than a day, and most would have said “no way” up until the mid 1990’s. Today, if you ask that question, and it is answered honestly, all but the most specialized call centers and such could survive without telephone service for a day. I believe that one of the main reasons that is possible is because everyone has a second “phone” in their pocket – a cell phone.

    Remember the call centers that I mentioned above? Interestingly enough, most all of those run on VoIP services that are based on the same technology and software that a similar system for our business or church would use. The major difference is that they have all of the things necessary to make it very “high availability” – things like multiple redundant “trunk” lines, redundant servers, and full time staff to keep it all in tip top shape.

    Even though we don’t have that luxury in our smaller organizations, we can still survive with VoIP, even if we are trading 99.9% “ma-bell” uptime for 97% uptime. Let’s dissect this a bit further.

    In a typical cloud-based VoIP system, the telephone handsets on your desk are connected to your office network, and that connects to the internet, so the phone can find it’s way to your VoIP provider’s server in the cloud. If your internet connection fails, you lose connection to the cloud based server. But here’s where it gets fun!

    The cloud based VoIP server is still happily receiving calls, presenting your IVR (Interactive Voice Response system) to callers, and delivering your call-in prayer requests to the pastoral team via e-mail. However when someone tries to dial an extension, they will be directed to voicemail immediately, since the server will not be able to hand the call down to the phone on your desktop. So your presence to the outside world is largely unaffected by the fact that your local internet connection is down.

    But we can employ some other fun tools that make it even more “fail safe.” We could have setup your phone system in such a way that if the desk number becomes unreachable, the system then routes the call to your cell phone.  There are a myriad of call routing things that we can do to get the call out of the server and into your hands.

    Of course, if the reverse is true, and your hosting provider’s internet connection is down, then your presence to the outside world could be affected. However, this is much more unlikely, as your hosting provider has a much more robust internet connection than you do at your home/office. In addition, we can tell your ITSP (Internet Telephony Service Provider – the one that connects the calls to the PSTN “Public Switched Telephone Network”) that if it is ever unable to reach your phone server, route the call to a cell phone, or that single line that you have at the office for the alarm system, etc.) This way, you can always get that call that comes in.

    Bottom line, most organizations these days can tolerate a slight dip in telephone reliability, in exchange for much lower cost, awesome call quality, and mobility outside the office walls.

    If you are considering a VoIP system for your church, office, or home office, and I can offer any advice, please drop me a line.

    If you are setting up a VoIP system on your own, please consider using RentPBX via this link. Thanks!



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