RCN Hosted Voice Review

Admin features make it easy to customize and change, while Voicemail Transcription is fast and accurate

What is our primary use case?

It operates as the central voice for everything that we do. Our people are using it for daily business, daily interaction, conferencing, local communication - you name it, we're using it. 

How has it helped my organization?

The speed of delivery, whether it's a transcription notice or it's something that needs to be done on the server side - something that goes beyond our managing the actual system - with almost everything, the turnaround time is a lot quicker. Previously, if we wanted to make any change, we didn't have a platform like we do now where we can do things ourselves. Everything had to go in through a ticketing system, had to be called in, had to be turned around, and it was usually somewhere between a 12-to-24, and sometimes a 36-hour turnaround. With you RCN it happens almost instantaneously. 

Perhaps it's because of the relationship we had with the salesperson or the way things have worked out, but our users have noticed that, from the moment we set everything up and we got it running as it ought to be running - with some tweaks here and there - things have been better. Everybody's quite happy.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature is the admin platform that we work with. It allows us a very centralized approach for doing things and it allows us to manage and control everything right from the very top. We could do that before, but the features that we have with RCN seem more extensive than the previous company that we worked with.

The Voicemail Transcription is more accurate than what we had with our previous company. Also, and I'm not sure if this is because it's a fiber line, we seem to get the responses and the transcription almost instantaneously, faster than what we had prior.

We can do lots of things: We can do call groups, we can do work with our extensions, we can set up our account codes, we can take a look at call logs. There are a multiplicity of miscellaneous settings that are allowed for each user and for the Admin. There's a simplicity to it. It seems they use KISS principle, keep it simple, stupid. It works for everybody because, when I'm not here responding to it, my technicians are; sometimes my network guy is; sometimes our students are interacting with it. It creates a very easy flow for working through the product and the interface.

The automatic upgrades are the best thing that ever happened, because we don't see them, we don't feel them, we just know that they happened, after the fact. What they've done, at least for us, is that we haven't had or felt a crash whatsoever, nor have we felt the disruption as a result of the updates. That tells me that work goes into them to get them done right, and that they really test the code and test the information in updates so that they work properly.

What needs improvement?

If they could improve on their response times, making them even faster than they are right now, that would be great.

For how long have I used the solution?

Less than one year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

As for the issue of packet-loss and reliability, when I came into this role some three or four years ago, on my first day we had an eight-hour phone outage. When we did the investigation, we realized that there was a DOS attack on the system and, hence, when the guys at the NOC were looking at it, they stopped all service to us. That was the first time. Four months after that we had a similar episode, but for a completely different reason. Within another year, we had the same thing. When we made the decision to go with RCN, packet loss was brought up. So far, and we're going on just about a year working with them, we haven't had a blip on the radar.

We've had 100 percent uptime so far. We haven't been down once, not even for a brief second, not even for a reboot. Nothing.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The scalability is wide open for us. It's excellent. We have a gig fiber line. We were doing a 250 by 250 before. We upped that to a gig. In terms of our functionality, we have anywhere between 160 to 180 units and we haven't had any problems with it.

Our users are staff, faculty, student services, student groups, etc. On any given day, on the data side, we have somewhere between 600 to 1,000 users.

We are constantly acquiring buildings. For example, this past year we acquired a new building which is going to be for student housing. We're still using the temporary solution that was done there, prior, but we're working with RCN because it's only three or four blocks from where we are in downtown Manhattan. We're looking at another building, as well. We fully intend to work with RCN to run that shop as well. I can tell you this: Those intentions are solely based on the experience that we've had within the first year with RCN.

How are customer service and technical support?

RCN tech support is solid. We call them, there is a response. If we have to email somebody, there is generally a response within a half an hour. For response time, that is very good.

On the solution side, they always provide a workable solution. That doesn't mean that we get exactly what we want, but they provide us with something based upon what they're able to give us, given the equipment we have, given our contracts. For many of the solutions they provide, they give us almost everything we request. There was only one time when we had to do a workaround which they suggested. It worked the way it should work.

In terms of the NOC and customer service, again, we've been very pleased. If I had to rate them from one to ten, I would put them at a ten. These guys they pay attention to detail. Everybody, from the sales guy all the way to the folks at the NOC, and even the folks in billing - I get occasional phone calls from them. "Hey, we just want to make sure everything's okay, is there anything we can change? Anything that we can do?" Given there's an interest in making sure that we can get things done right, it speaks a lot about how these guys want to conduct the relationship.

One time, we were late on a payment and I didn't realize it. We got an email - we were in the midst of buying a new building, we were in the midst of setting up, I hadn't looked at things - and I just got this friendly reminder. I said, "Wow, okay, I like it." Not that we were not going to pay, obviously, we have 600 students here, we're trying to do anything and everything that we can to run the operation. But it was just done right, the way we were reminded it. At the end of it we said, "Okay, this is the way a relationship ought to be."

It helps that they're US-based and within local markets. That is one of the best things. We get people who speak American English without an accent and they understand our idioms, our cultural norms, what you expect, what you're seeing on your system. That is one of the better features that we enjoy. For some of our other solutions we get routed to India, and sometimes the ability to communicate or to be understood when we're explaining something is not exactly the best.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We were working with GTT which, prior to being GTT, was Transbeam. We decided to switch because we had three outages within my first ten months on the job, and I just didn't want that. 

In addition, I came in with a plan, from the moment that I walked in, to cut the budget within three years by a minimum of 15 percent and by a max of 30 percent. I identified four or five different things that we had to work with on the operational side of the budget, including reviewing our existing contracts for hardware, software, and our utility. ISP voice became part and parcel of that. I renewed and renegotiated about 16 or 17 contracts, and it's helped to reduce the budget. RCN is in the top-three in terms of saving us money.

Also, I had a relationship with the salesperson. He had worked for another company, Time Warner. He had solicited our business but, at the time, we couldn't do it. When he moved over to RCN he said, "Bracey, let's talk. This may be a better solution." We looked at and evaluated the numbers over a two or three-month process. Then they came back with a proposal. We didn't even counter, we just said, "Let's sign it, let's do it." Six or seven months later we were implementing.

How was the initial setup?

The setup is straightforward. 

In terms of deployment, this is what we did: We had to wait until the contract with the previous company was done; we had a three-month window to close out that contract. RCN was here six months prior to the end of that contract, and they installed the fiber line from the trunk, under the city street, into the building. They left that for the next five months. About a month prior to the end of the previous contract, RCN showed up onsite with their Juniper switch and their core and made their connection.

On the day of the cutover, which we did on a weekend, they were here running throughout the facility, coding the phones, and prepping the system. From the moment they stepped in, on a Friday morning, to when the phones were dialing, which was midday that Friday, to when everything was configured exactly the way we wanted it for Monday, - for everything to be configured precisely the way we wanted it - took less than 48 hours, two business days.

The reason it was that way - the 48 hours - is because we're a university. We have a number of lines that either need to be forwarded, dialed forward, or have certain advanced settings. We had hunt groups that needed to be reprogrammed. There were a lot of things to do, but it was fairly quick. There were guys on the operational side when we called support, and there were guys onsite. And the RCN sales guy was coordinating a lot of it.

The planning that went into it was done months in advance. We started with once-a-month phone calls leading up to month-four, when we went to once every two weeks, and then we started having two or three phone calls a week, and then we executed. The RCN guys were good.

We had five of our staff involved in the deployment. We brought in extra people because we have units all over the place. We needed individuals to direct some of that traffic, we needed some to reset some of the handsets. There were four people from RCN, and we added an assistant and three or four others and it went smoothly and it cut over without a problem.

What was our ROI?

One part of the ROI is the cost, and the other ROI is that we get efficiency. So far it's 100 percent uptime. Previously, when I walked in, as I said, an outage happened on my first day. People were smiling and laughing, "Welcome to your first day." Since getting RCN, we haven't had a "welcome-to-your-first-day" scenario.

These are the areas where we see ROI. Can you get any better? 

  • We're saving money, at least 38 percent.
  • We went up five to six times on our bandwidth for both voice and data
  • We have 100 percent uptime.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

We looked at about five or six other companies but when RCN came in, they beat everybody hands-down, on both the features and on the dollars side. It prompted our people to say they hadn't seen numbers so low for the services you get. 

For us, the monthly price was 38 percent lower. We were paying somewhere between $5,600 and $5,800 every month for voice and data. We got it down to about $4,000 with tax. We signed a long-term deal, we did that on purpose. For us, for budgeting purposes for what we do for the college, it's a win-win. We don't intend to move, we intend to be here for a while. And, since we've now been acquiring other buildings, we're going to extend business with RCN.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We looked at 

  • XO
  • EarthLink
  • Verizon
  • Bay Networks.

What other advice do I have?

I have three pieces of advice. 

Number one, make sure that you have a good working relationship with the salesperson that you're working with, and that you have a sense of trust with that individual, because if you believe that that individual is not looking to rip you off but, rather, is looking to help you in what you're seeking to get accomplished, there's a good chance you're going to get something very positive out of the experience and out of the service. Our sales guy said, "What are you trying to do? What's the overall initiative that you want to accomplish?" When I told him what I wanted, what our goals were, he worked with me with that. Because I was upfront with him, he was upfront and able to put out certain solutions that we needed to have in place. We've been very satisfied and one reason is that we were upfront with our expectations and what we wanted.

The second recommendation is to do your due diligence in terms of identifying what is being offered. Do a "tale of the tape" with each offering, from RCN and from the other companies. Be brutally honest as to what you're going to get.

Last, and most importantly, make sure they are meeting the basic goals, from the moment the relationship starts.

If a colleague were to say to me that a cloud solution isn't safe, given that we actually use the cloud, and because so many business functions are moving to the cloud, it's almost impossible not to use it. We opted to have a third-party company do a cyber-risk assessment on us. Do a pen-test on your systems, because if your systems are rock solid and have best practices implemented, you're in good shape.

We've been going at it for a good three-plus years, as an organization that has about 1,000 people in it, an organization that's very transactional, and, so far, it serves us pretty well with two of our chief applications on the cloud.

Going back to RCN's service, sometimes we have to request specialty items, for RCN to get involved, and working with them has been great. We constantly look at the application, every day. We interact with it every day. We put in a request to receive certain bills through snail mail and certain bills to come in digitally and they were on top of it as quickly as possible. We've recommended RCN to other clients and people that we work with here in the city.

Regarding maintenance of the system, we have three guys who take care of it: the IT Director (myself), my Network Administrator, and my Network Engineer. The Administrator is responsible for the IT helpdesk, which does both voice and data, as well as everything that is IT-related. When he's out, one of us backs him up. Rarely do we ever need two guys to manage the whole thing.

In terms of disaster recovery, there's a plan in place, which they laid out for us, which we had to take care of on our side. We have to worry about what happens if we have an outage. Based upon the way we configured things, we went with a dual line connection. From our standpoint, and because of what we need to do, we were able to get a backup line from a different vendor, which is what you have to do. That's what you have to do when you do a cyber-risk assessment. The risk-assessment folks are very happy because you're putting together genuine redundancy. We're not talking about two lines from one company. We're talking about two separate lines from two separate companies. We have RCN and then we have a backup, but there's been no need to use it. For our purposes, we need to have it and we've been quite pleased.

If I were to rate the overall solution a ten, it would probably be an understatement. If I could give it more, I would. We've been very, very happy. We've been happy from the financial side, we've been very happy from the technical side, we've been happy from the service side, we've been happy from the support side. I would recommend it.

**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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