If you were talking to someone whose organization is considering RCN Hosted Voice, what would you say?
How would you rate it and why? Any other tips or advice?
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.
Do your research and make sure you're getting everything you need. As for the what I would say to a colleague who said to me that a cloud solution is not safe, I asked our IT department about that. The answer is that everything is on the cloud, and it really is in jeopardy of not being safe, but that's why you take measures to protect your information. For instance, we have firewalls set up all over the place so that our computers aren't hacked. We're working with RCN which is obviously a very well known, successful solution company, and we trust that our information is being protected through the cloud. In terms of packet loss and reliability, I don't have anything to really compare it to. I can't say either way. Because it's still fairly new to us, we did lose a good amount of calls because people weren't sure how to transfer them or put them on Call Park. I don't think that I'm at a point where I could even really tell you about the reliability. We don't use the voicemail transcription feature. I'm not aware of the automatic upgrades. I don't know whether it's been upgraded since we've gotten the phones. If it's happening in the background I don't even know, so they must be really smooth. Transferring a call to voicemail took a little while for people to get used to, as did putting a call on Call Park, rather than putting them on hold. It's not difficult, it was just an adjustment period. I would rate Hosted Voice at nine out of ten. There are some glitches sometimes. For absolutely no reason, we would drop calls over the last year-and-a-half. We have the caller ID so we can call them back and explain, we apologize that we dropped that call, but dropping calls in our business is almost a safety hazard. If we drop a call from a client who needs an attorney and they call another attorney's office, we've lost that client. That's one of my biggest probably reasons it's not a ten. But RCN can't help that.
Be flexible because things don't always turn out as you might think they should, at the beginning. In terms of uptime of the system, it does pretty well now. I haven't seen any bigger problems lately. We have around 70 to 75 daily users of the phones and there are at least four or five people who are answering the reception phone. We have three or four people who take care of the system's maintenance. The system is used daily, throughout the week. As far as I know, there aren't really any plans to increase usage, other than potentially adding a few phone lines. Regarding the automatic upgrades, I don't really see them happen. If they're happening automatically, then it seems that they're working. I would rate the system at six out of ten. We had a lot of problems with the install, with the initial rolling out and using of the system. This was despite the fact that my predecessor had many meetings with a representative about the capabilities and functionalities we were used to and wanted, none of which seemed like they were very complicated. That was really frustrating. In the meantime, the daily functioning of the phones is fine. The business services Tier 2, the email service that we use for the smaller, quicker technical things, is always really prompt and usually very helpful. But again, some of the more complicated things can feel like a nightmare. To get to a perfect 10 they need to work on listening to what the customers want, and not necessarily from a technical perspective. They need to understand not just the technical aspect of what the phones do, but the reality of what it's like using them.
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.
I would highly recommend RCN Hosted Voice. Their project management, their implementation process, are just very organized. It was a seamless switch. They know what they're doing. We don't use the voicemail transcription feature. We have 78 people using the system from secretaries to paralegals to attorneys. We don't have any internal staff for deployment or maintenance. I would say the automatic upgrades are seamless because I'm not aware of them. We don't see any stops or starts, so if they're happening, they're seamless. As for someone who might say to me that a cloud solution is not safe, I'd say that's not true. We're taking our network to the cloud as well. It's safe with the right protocols and the right security. I would rate it as a ten out of ten. Compared to the last two vendors we had in-house, this is definitely a ten.
Just in case, whatever you order, you're going to need to have a spare phone. If you choose RCN, my recommendation is that you always have three or four phones on hand, just in case someone has a problem. Let's say the handheld breaks or something weird is going on with the phone and you don't have time to look into it. You take a phone that you have in storage, you pop it in, you go to the administration portal, type in the Mac address, and you're good to go. It's that simple. I would recommend you make sure you have enough bandwidth. We're doing just fine with 20 megs, so you if have more than that you're fine. Out-of-the-box, RCN provides the feature set for its customers. When it comes to having personalization for the system, a lot of the canned answers are going to be, "Out-of-the-box, we can't do that." So it takes either transforming your process to meet what the feature set can offer or you can really bug the level-2 support and sometimes they come out with something. For example, we had a need to add a SIP-enabled paging server into our system because we had an old-school analog paging system. We needed some way to tie the SIP server to our analog version and, out-of-the-box, meaning right when implementation was there, they said, "We don't have anything like that." So I bugged them and then they were willing - which I was very pleased with - to say, you choose the paging server you think would work and we'll take it to our team and see if we can incorporate it into your solution. I was very pleased it worked, and it still works today. So, right out-of-the-box, they may not have everything for you. You just have to ask all the questions in the beginning. We don't use the voicemail transcription feature. What we do offer is that when people make a call in, we turn on the emailing function for those that ask for it - until they find out they get too many emails and then they ask to remove it. But if it is helpful. We haven't seen less packet loss or a higher reliability with RCN Hosted Voice, but what I can share with you is, if you have a rogue device on your network, it will cause disruptions. We had a problem, two or three years ago where every other week, there would be a "storm" on the network and all the phones would have this horrible jitter. No one could hear anything and it would last for an hour. We found out that it was actually a rogue device on our network, one we didn't authorize. You have to watch out for things like that as they will interrupt or you will see some kind of problem with the phone systems. As a defense for that, we decided to lock down all of our ports and only enable the ports that we want to authorize. It's a pain but that's the only way we can really go about that. The solution requires close to zero staff for maintenance. These things are set-it-and-forget-it. As long as you don't have some odd requirement for it, which we don't, I don't foresee even needing to touch the administrative portion of it. And I'm a fiddler, I like to know what's going on with these phones. But they lock them down to the point where, once a night around midnight, RCN makes updates if there are any available and they reboot all the phones by themselves. It's hands-off. Among our 65 users we have accounting, receiving, purchasing; all the major departments that any company would have. The customer service users are the heavy hitters; those are the guys who are in a multi-line hunt group. For something like that, you get a dashboard, you can get true metrics on who's dialing in, how many calls you drop, how many calls you receive; you get the full stuff, if you have a customer service department. We don't have any plans to scale up right now. With the floor space, with everyone in the company, we are just about maxed out with where we could physically put the phones. If a colleague said to me, "A cloud solution isn't safe," I would say, "You haven't tried RCN yet." It's not an issue at all. We're very happy with it. I give it a solid nine out of ten. There's always room for improvement.
Because it is a voice over IP, you want to look at what your backup strategy is. If anything does happen to the system, and you can't get back up quickly, do you have another way to go about it? We had a third-party IT group that had worked with RCN before. We talked to them about it, as they had it installed in their office, and they gave us the pros and cons and helped us to get ready for it. We have about 25 users altogether. They are our dispatchers here in the office, our office administration people, and our management people. Our salespeople use it and there is a person at the front window who takes in trucks and gets them loaded. She uses the phone quite a bit. We're pretty much at capacity in terms of the people who would use the phone lines, and we use them constantly throughout the day. We don't require any staff for deployment and maintenance of the phone system. We don't have anybody dedicated to the phone system. The automatic upgrades have been invisible to us. I haven't seen or heard anything regarding them. If a colleague said that a cloud solution isn't safe, I would say that my experience has been that we haven't had any issues. I've worked with other cloud-based software before and haven't had a problem. As long as you've got a server, people can hack you no matter what, but I don't think a cloud is any less safe. I give it a nine out of ten. We have had little things happen. I give it a nine not knowing why those things happened. It could also be our particular server with the strange setup that we've got. We've had some dropped calls and we've had some funny things that happened to the line, but again, we don't know if it is RCN or if it's our server.
I would recommend that everyone do their research. My own feedback would be that with RCN you're going to get fair pricing, if you do your homework. You'll get reliability. You will get great customer support. I can't speak for all the reps at RCN, if they're not as great as Courtney was, but overall, if you decide to go with RCN you're going to have a very reliable product that you're going to be satisfied with. If you want all the bells and whistles and the dashboard and the analytics, it may not be the product for you. But if you want great service and a great product then RCN is there. I highly recommend RCN to people. Know what your needs are and you'll find that they meet a lot of those needs and you'll be satisfied with the results. If a colleague were to say to me that a cloud solution is not safe, I would tell them, because I have a security background, that nothing is safe. Nothing is 100 percent. Everyone does their best to keep things safe. But everything is vulnerable; that's just the nature of our society. I would say there's nothing to worry about, really. We're moving to full cloud very soon. We're moving to G Suite and we're moving to a server cloud solution. I don't have any fears. As long as you put certain things in place, the security gates that you need, you should have no worries. The Voicemail Transcription is pretty good. I personally don't use it. I'm kind of old-fashioned. If I see a notification that I have a voicemail, I check my voicemail. In my position, I get hundreds of emails a day, so to sift through and use it... From what I can see it looks nice. I deactivated it on the control panel for me. But it does the job. People mention it all the time, saying that it works great for them. They can see it on their phone. The automated upgrades happen automatically so I really don't see them. I have no real opinion on them because I don't see it happen and they haven't affected my product. I would rate RCN Hosted Voice between a nine and a ten out of ten. Nine would only be because of the analytic part. But overall, it's a ten. It's been a fantastic product for us as a company. It's been reliable. There's no downtime. They have mobility features that allow us to work remotely and allow us to stay connected to our company and our clients. It allows us to continue to provide service to our clients. Overall, with the customer service we got from Courtney and the support from their team when we need it, our satisfaction with the product is that it delivers what they promise. They promised that we would always be up and we would always have clear calls. We always do. That's it. I can't say anything negative about them. In general, they're outstanding. Anybody who decides to go with them will be satisfied and have a great product. We've had a long relationship with them now and I don't see that ending.
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.
Compare several options and talk with more than just the salesperson presenting the solution. If you select RCN products, work with the point person assigned to ensure the transition is completed without major issues. If a colleague were to say to me, "A cloud solution is not safe," I would reply, "We are an online school. You secure the best you can." We sought the solution directly through RCN. The 13 members of our company are all using the solution, including the owner, staff, and interns we hire. In terms of maintenance, our COO and one administrative staff member are responsible for the phones' operation. When we need maintenance we call RCN.