RCN Hosted Voice Review

Gives us the flexibility to add an additional or larger switch, and I can install it myself

What is our primary use case?

We use it for voice over IP. For day-to-day use we have a mix of interoffice and outside office calls. We use it a lot for interoffice, but our sales and production teams, and pretty much every individual here, reach out on a daily basis, outside of the office. For everybody I've reached out to, the calls have been crystal clear. Even international calls have been clear.

We have about 40 to 45 users. We're a wholesale company, so we're talking to retailers, we're talking to suppliers, our visual department is talking to some of their customers who create images. Then we have our accounting team. Everybody's reaching out to somebody, whether it's internally or externally. And we have some international teams that people reach out to on a daily basis.

How has it helped my organization?

With our legacy system, we were limited to 35 extensions. Recently we've moved up to about the mid-40s in terms of number of phones now. So it gives us the flexibility to continually add. The legacy phone system had switches that were only eight ports a piece. It was an old phone line situation and each "blade" was only eight ports. We would continually have to have them come in and add another one. It was painstaking. This solution is easy, having it in our own hands. Right now we have a 48-port switch, and at any point, if I want, I can throw in a larger switch or add an additional switch, and I don't have to call anybody to install it. I can do it myself. From that end perspective, it's pretty good.

We haven't had to face any disaster recovery. I haven't had any experience dealing with those on-premise voice-over-IP solutions where you have to host your own server, etc. We're a smaller company, so it's nice to be able to pay for somebody else to take care of that. I don't have to be knowledgeable about any of that. I have to know how to set the phone up and call somebody to tell them how I need something configured. It's nice not having that on my head.

What is most valuable?

Feature-wise, the price was right for what we were looking for. They're our internet service provider as well, so it was an easy decision to have both our primary ISP and our ISP for our VoIP system be the same company.

What needs improvement?

I use the voicemail transcription feature but I'm not sure about the security of the voicemail system, as you can only use numbers for a password, and your direct-dial number is your username. That's kind of vulnerable to brute-force attacks. The passwords are limited to six digits, so I'd be a little concerned about security on that end, but I don't think anybody's really leaving too much personal information on their voicemails.

My only complaint with RCN's service would be that I've had issues getting phones sent out that were good to go. I think it's just the particular rep I have assigned to me. One of them who did the on-site changeover was not really attentive and just wanted to get the heck out of here. It seems he also takes that kind of attitude when he originally sends me a phone. My workaround is that as soon as I get the phones from him, I just contact another guy at their tech support and he resolves my issues immediately. RCN as a whole is pretty good, but that one individual guy that I have isn't the best.

Our strategy, as far as how it's deployed is that we have RCN supplying everything. It's split into two different modems; VoIP is on a secondary line for security reasons. All those VoIP lines are on their own switch, a dedicated network. Everything's hooked up to the wall rather than through a computer.

For how long have I used the solution?

Less than one year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability has been great so far; no real downtime.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability would just be a matter of adding another switch if I wanted. I feel we have the ability to grow. We'd outgrow our office before we outgrow this phone solution.

How are customer service and technical support?

I would rate technical support at nine out of ten. They get back to me pretty quickly. I've had issues with the phones arriving in not-working order, and as soon as I reach out to their tech support, for the most part, we get it resolved rather quickly. If not, they're extremely responsive by email. Usually, at most, it's a five-minute turnaround time. That's nice to have, especially when you have that pressure to have something out and deployed immediately. It's nice to not be waiting on them for anything.

It helps that they're US-based and within the local market. It's much easier speaking with somebody local. I don't need to go into detail about any of the nightmares of the tech support phone banks in other countries that give you nothing but, "Oh, I'm sorry to hear about that, sir." It's nice to deal with somebody whose manager is either next to them or down the hall. I don't have to go through all the baloney of shouting how important it is that something needs to be fixed now. It's nice to have some kind of responsiveness.

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

We had XO Communications and it was a legacy phone system. The costs were going up and RCN came in at a very competitive price, especially for the bandwidth they were willing to give us. They came in with 20 megs or 50 and they upgraded our regular internet and co-opted that into the phone deal.

They agreed to double the speed of our regular internet for no extra cost, which was very nice of them. The fact that they are our ISP as well as our voice provider is nice. If anything goes wrong, it's one company you have to deal with. It's not like, "Hey, the phone system's not working. Is it our internet provider, is it our phone service provider?" It's all the same.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup went pretty smoothly. The guy who came and did the setup was just a little rushed. If we had a little more time for him to teach our users, rather than his handing me some YouTube videos and pamphlets to go through, that would have been great. But that's more of an individual than RCN as a whole. Their tier-2 business response, their helpdesk, has been great with any issues I've had.

The deployment took less than a day. They were pretty quick about it. All the phones were delivered a day before, so I was able to get the phones set up and placed at each desk. I wired everything myself. When they came in, it was just a matter of going to the patch panel and they installed a secondary modem for the VoIP line. Once that was up, they switched the lines from XO Communications - our old phone company. Once they switched over, it took about an hour. We did it first thing in the morning. Total downtime was about a half hour.

In terms of the staff required for deployment, it was just me.

What about the implementation team?

We used a third-party consultant, the Abadi Group, and they were phenomenal.

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

We didn't feel like buying phones. RCN, as part of the deal, leased us phones at a reasonable price and each line was extremely reasonable as well.

All in all, for about 45 phones, we're paying around $900 a month. It was getting to the point with XO, our old provider - even though we bought all the phones outright, so the purchased phones were not included on the bill - that the bills were almost higher than RCN was going to be with leasing the phones and the lines themselves.

The fact that we're only held to 40 lines - that's what we originally started with in May - and we can always remove anything over that from the contract, is nice. They're pretty flexible with removing phones and adding phones. 

The cost for leasing the phones is pretty nice and if at any point we want to upgrade a phone, we don't have to hold onto it. We can just send it right back to them. I like the flexibility with them.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We looked at Vonage and 8x8.

What other advice do I have?

My advice would be to start the deployment very early on a Monday morning. We did it on a Friday. On a Friday you have to deal with the possibility that the people who come out have mentally "checked out." I don't want to say they were not doing their job, but it's like going into surgery. You'd rather go on a Monday when doctors are all fresh than on a Friday when they're getting ready for the weekend; their minds might be elsewhere.

In terms of packet loss, I haven't looked at the number of packets being dropped or coming in or out. Besides user error, we haven't really had any dropped calls or the like. In the initial stages of deployment, it took some of our people a little while to learn the phone system, particularly with how to transfer and hold calls. But as far as the system itself goes, I haven't seen any real faults with it.

I would rate the uptime of the system at nine out of ten. It's been great, other than a few additional phones that I've ordered that have come in non-functioning. I've had to go back and forth with tech support to get them up and running. Other than that, everything's been great.

I haven't used the automatic upgrade feature yet.

We don't have plans to increase usage. RCN was a replacement for our old phone service, and everything it's been doing has been going great. Any increase might involve updating phone models for some users. They have some models that have video-chat capability. We might look to do something like that, but we're not even using the system to its full extent right now, so I don't really see us adding more features.

If a colleague said to me, "A cloud solution is not safe," the complaint I have about the six-digit password on the voicemail is definitely disconcerting. But I don't think nowadays that people, at least in our company, are really giving private information over on a voicemail. People tend to wait until they can actively talk to somebody on the phone. As long as you're not really leaving anything in your voicemail like that, I don't think you have to worry.

Security-wise, always use a dedicated line. A friend of mine works in security and when people have had their VoIP network on the same network as their servers, he has found ways to compromise it by using dial tones and the like. After hearing that, that was my biggest sticking point: not having them on the same network.

Overall I would rate RCN Hosted Voice at eight out of ten. If it weren't for the security on the voicemail having such a small number of characters, and some phones I've had sent out to me that weren't functioning, it would be a ten.

**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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