What is our primary use case?
With RCN, we use the internet service and we use the voice over IP cloud service. We have three offices and we use the ISP. We have an inside sales team and we have an Auto Attendant that does call-based routing: press one, press two, press three, and there are additional routings once you get into the sub-menus. It can do forwarding. That's what we use it for.
It's mainly for office use, sales, and customer service. Because we're not like a call center, we're not 100 percent customer service, users use it to make and receive calls and to do conference calls and transfers. We use it for conference rooms, we have 800 numbers for our sales team and customer service. We use it for quite a lot.
How has it helped my organization?
Because RCN is heavily invested in the Lehigh Valley we were able to get the internet and the voice over IP together as a bundled service and, at the same time, leverage the redundancy of the infrastructure that they have. This way, they give us more of a guaranteed uptime. In the Lehigh Valley they have what they call an RCN ring with different redundancy points - four or five of them. We are connected to more than one so the chance of a failure or a loss of service is small, unless more than one ring goes down. Let's say we are on the Eastern hub. If Eastern hub goes down, we're still up and running. It wouldn't impact our service because of the redundancy service in the Lehigh Valley. I don't know if other service providers have that feature, but that's one way of increasing our uptime on the internet and the voice over IP.
We don't have metrics in terms of packet loss, but as far as service goes, it has been excellent. There haven't been any issues. The only time there was an outage was because the whole area lost power. Somebody hit a power pole and, regardless of what service you had, it knocked out the whole area. That wasn't an RCN issue. We've had snow storms and we haven't had any loss of service. It's been pretty good on the uptime.
Compared to traditional, premise-based systems, the solution's reliability and disaster recovery are excellent. We haven't used on-premise for five years and we don't want to go back to using on-premise. In terms of maintenance, upgrades, licenses, etc., it's easier to go with a voice over IP solution. In terms of redundancy and uptime, it beats the on-premise. And then there are the hours needed from an IT support team to manage an on-premise system, whereas a cloud-based solution tremendously reduces the amount of time and the effort. We don't have to worry about how the on-premise system functions, and the costs associated with uptime and maintenance of it.
What is most valuable?
A lot of users use the voicemail to email, that's a nice feature to have. Voicemail will come to me as a .wav file and, if I have a phone, I can just click on the .wav file and listen to it. Or I can play it on my computer. Whether you have an Android or an iPhone, you'll be able to play it. It's not similar to the Verizon or the AT&T service where they just transcribe the whole thing. It's a recording that plays it back.
It has a lot of other features:
- Do not disturb.
- You can check your voicemails on the portal; delete or forward them; if you delete, you can go back and un-delete on the portal. You have the option for them to stay on the portal and send them to your email as well.
- On the portal you can see a call log of who called you and when they called you.
- There's a call manager.
- There's a button that you can click on and see a directory with all the users in the office. You can search by last name or first name.
- The touchscreen on the phone is LCD-based. It's a large screen and you can flip through the users, scroll down, scroll up.
Another feature we leverage is that the phones can be programmed with a softbot, where you program it to dial a number. We have Vonage for international calling to reduce costs on international service. I program the Vonage number into that bot on the phone. Users call it, enter a PIN, and they can call anywhere in the world for lower costs.
What needs improvement?
One area for improvement is the Web Portal. It's not a full-view screen, it's more like a minimized screen. You don't get the full view of your desktop. It's more like a five-inch by five-inch view. I think they said the software was designed that way. I don't know if there's going to be a newer version coming out later. With Google Chrome or if you open Excel you have the full view of your screen. You can see everything. With their portal, you have the web browser in the background in full view screen, but the actual portal itself is minimized, not a full screen
That's the only issue that I asked them about it. Other than that, I think their calling features, settings, the voice to email, they're all okay.
For how long have I used the solution?
One to three years.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
The uptime has been excellent. It's a stable solution.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
We can add extensions at any time. We can add IDs, direct dial numbers. If I need to order a phone, I just call in to my account manager and say, "I need this extension, this phone set up." They set it up and they can either mail me the phone or send a customer service rep to give me the phone, make sure it's powered on and ready. I have both options.
It's highly scalable. I don't think there's a limit on how many extensions it supports. You can have as many phones as you want in different offices. You can even extend it overseas.
How are customer service and technical support?
If there is an issue, I call or email customer service and they're quick to respond. Their technical support is excellent. They log a ticket and, right away, somebody calls me. If I send an email, their response time is excellent; sometimes it's less than an hour. It depends on the severity of the issue.
For example, when we had the power outage, they noticed that the line was down and I got a call, saying, "We noticed your service is down. Please let us know if this is something that you scheduled or something else." We get notified when there is the loss of what they call a "heartbeat" on their side, when the monitoring service doesn't see any connection or heartbeat for our service. Then we get a call right way. Sometimes on the weekend I shut down my firewall or am doing some upgrades and they notice it's offline for 30 minutes. They call me and say like, "We noticed that you've been down. Are you doing maintenance?" They've been very efficient on that.
In terms of the customer service, we have a dedicated account manager, so if I have any billing issues, if I have anything that needs to be escalated, I go directly to that account manager. If I need to add an extension, I go to that account manager. If I need new services I go to that account manager.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
Before, we were using a Broadview's service. They have a service called Office Suite. Initially, I was happy with their service, but their customer service started to deteriorate. A few situations happened where the response from their customer service wasn't satisfactory.
Because we were using RCN's ISP for our internet, when our contract expired with Broadview, we were able to negotiate better pricing with RCN. And since they offered voice over IP we wanted to centralize our services, the internet and the VoIP, with one provider to have one vendor supporting us on both. And we were able to reduce our costs with a bundled service.
How was the initial setup?
With the setup, RCN really did a good job. We were getting a new office and we were renegotiating our existing service, because we were only using internet. We only had one month, and RCN was able to see the urgency, pool their resources, and put extra resources in place to put the fiber in the street, connect our location, and send engineers to set up services. They required some equipment updates around the area as well to accommodate our increased bandwidth. There was a dedicated project manager who handled the entire rollout for us. In terms of deployment, if I could give a 200 percent rating, I would give it.
It was very well done and coordinated by the RCN team.
When we signed the contract they assigned an account manager, and then it was just a matter of their getting the information from us: How our existing auto attendant was set up with our previous service provider, the user list, the extensions. Once I provided that information to them, it took about a week to build our portal, build our Auto Attendant, the routing and so forth. Then it was just a matter of scheduling when we wanted to go live. It was all based on when we were moving to the new office.
We had three offices. We were moving from one of them to a new one. The deployment had to work such that the day after we moved the deployment was done for all the offices. That way, when users arrived at the new office their phones were working. It was a coordinated process.
What about the implementation team?
We didn't have to use an integrator. It was me, as the IT Manager, and the team from RCN. We didn't use anybody in the middle to assist in the project. It was a straightforward project. I was on the IT side and then they had their team.
What was our ROI?
We had our internet service provider with one company, we had phone service with a different company, we had T1 lines and voice lines. We were only using RCN at one office. When it came to centralizing everything on RCN's voice and internet, versus what we were paying, we were able to reduce our monthly cost by about $400 to $500 per month.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
We're okay with the pricing and licensing. There's no issue there. It's based on the number of extensions. If you want to purchase direct dial numbers, you get that option as well.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
At that time we could have continued with Broadview. We had RCN and we had the option to use another provider called Frontier. But RCN was a better choice, a better fit for us because of pricing, the customer service, and the investment they put into their infrastructure in Lehigh Valley, where they have multiple hubs to support redundancy and failover. Those were three areas that we looked at and were a priority for us.
What other advice do I have?
As long as you're able to communicate with the RCN team and provide them with what they want, it will be a smooth migration process. I don't foresee an issue. The RCN team gives you the documentation: "This is the information that we need. Can you populate this?"
I gave them access to my existing portal, so they were able to go in and review it and see how our old Auto Attendant was set up. They gave me a print-out of our existing setup and asked me to confirm that it was set up that way. That's something that can be leveraged as well, if you are with an existing service provider and you are migrating to RCN. You can give them access to your existing portal. They can review it and duplicate that on their side and then provide you with the documentation to confirm this is how you're set up. If you're okay with it, they move that implementation to the RCN side.
If a colleague were to say a cloud solution is not safe, I would say it depends on the service provider. How much has the service provider invested in its security, its hardware, and its infrastructure? I don't think anything's 100 percent safe. If someone can get into the Pentagon or other government sites... But it depends heavily on the service provider: How their data center is set up, how they grant access, who has admin access to view all the customers and make changes.
The phones go back and update the firmware each night. It's always the latest. They're programmed that way. They go in and get any updates and restart. We have a cloud-based version, which includes a control panel, the admin portal, and the user portal. And then we have the desk phones. The automatic updates are seamless. I don't have to worry about anything. We come in in the morning and the phones are working. If something happens with a phone itself or an update doesn't work, it's just a matter of powering the phone off and powering it back on again and it's up and running.
It was more of a bundled offer, and then we were able to lower the price. The quality of service was there. There wasn't a specific feature and we said, "Okay, this is the key that we wanted." We weren't looking for phone-specific features.
In terms of deployment and maintenance, I'm the only IT person and I've been able to manage the service. I don't require additional resources to manage it. Because we're not 100 percent a call center, our use of the service is different from that of a call center. But you manage it through the portal. The interface, and using the portal, are very easy. They give you training on how to use the portal and how to set up phones and call groups, etc. For the users, they also offer two types of training. One is in-person where they come to the office and do the training. They also do online training where people join in via a WebEx.
We have about 150 phones. If we add more employees we would add more phones and extensions. That would be the only route for us to increase usage.
In my view, nothing is 100 percent, but I would give RCN a nine, because of its customer service, reliability so far, the ease of use of the phones, the portal, and the deployment process.