Friday, August 27, 2010

Free hosted PBX/IVR

A few months ago I posted an article about PC based PBX/IVR systems. These set ups required you to run them locally on your own PC. http://nyphonejacks.blogspot.com/2010/06/pc-based-pbxivr-systems.html

Today I talk about a hosted PBX available for FREE - or for $20 per month, depending on how many users you have, or if you need VoIP calling as well...

http://www.phonebooth.com/ is offering a free local phone number and IVR system that will forward to whatever phone that you choose. I have just signed up, so I will be playing around with it in the next few days, or weeks, and will report back here as to how I found the service to be. It appears too good to be true, so I am weary about recommending this for business purposes. If you are going to use this for business I would recommend forwarding an existing number into this service, and then having the service answer the calls and route them however you need them to be routed, so that in the event that the service ends, or the cost outweighs the benefits you can just set up a local PBX or IVR system with out the need to be concerned that the number that your customers have to reach you no longer is in service. Again, this is just preliminary thinking, I am not saying that the company is going away any time soon, or that the price will skyrocket through the roof, I am just saying to be cautious with your business number, as the old saying goes "you get what you pay for". But it seems that there is many things that are becoming cheaper, or even free that is still a value. I believe that their business plan/model is to get you hooked on their service with the free edition, and then you will eventually want to upgrade to the paid version - which seems like an extremely good value, or is overly under priced. Either way, stay tuned for my hands on testing with this service, and I will let you know if it is worth trying out. In the mean time, feel free to try it for yourself, just do not go printing business cards with your phonebooth phone number on it until you are sure that the service will fit your needs.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Taking over a number for a business that is closing.

I have come across people who inquired about how to get the phone number for a competitor that has just gone out of business.

Well If the phone service has already been canceled, it is not likely that you will be able to obtain that number. The phone company usually puts disconnected numbers into a state of inactivity for a minimum period of time (that can vary from provider to provider). Also telephone companies do not normally let you choose your number, and when they do it is considered a vanity number with additional monthly fees in most cases.

What you need to do so that you can obtain your competitors telephone number is contact the owner BEFORE the store is closed and have them transfer the bill into your name. You should ensure that the bill is up to date before having the bill transferred into your name. Of course the current business owner is not going to want to just give the number away, so you should be prepared to offer some form of compensation for the number.

I am unaware of any laws that prevent the transfer of a telephone number in this way, BUT the telephone companies do frown upon selling phone numbers, because the subscriber does not own the number, it's ownership remains with the telephone company.

once the bill is under your name then you can port the number to your current service provider, but I would recommend just finding the cheapest provider that offers free/unlimited call forwarding and just forward it to your main line.

Why would anyone want to do this? Well your competitor has a customer base, and possibly has placed advertisements in the yellow pages, magazines, newspapers and other forms of media. You can tap into these resources and potential new customers with minimal effort and expense.

Once the number is transferred to your name you can view my blog about how to port your number if you need additional help. http://nyphonejacks.blogspot.com/2010/08/lnp-local-number-portability.html

LNP - Local Number Portability.

EDIT - 8./9/2014: While all of the information below remains accurate I would like to add that if you are porting from a VoIP provider, then you should confirm AFTER the port has been complete that your account has been closed! This is probably more relevant to business or hosted PBX VoIP customers and not so much for residential service like that provided by your cable provider, or carriers similar to Vonage. Remember NEVER contact your current provider to cancel service UNTIL the port process has been completed, doing so may cause the port to fail!

Many people are switching from one carrier to another, or switching telephone services from land line to cellular to VoIP and many of you want to be able to bring your number with you. Maybe you have too many people that already know your number. Maybe you are using the number for business. Whatever the reason you want to be able to bring that phone number that you have become attached to with you when you leave one provider, and move over to a new provider.

When looking to change carriers, or services and bring your number with you there are several things to keep in mind:

*First contact the NEW provider that you want to move the number to, and tell them that you want to port your number. They will likely require additional information, such as the account number, and/or password for your account so that they can port the number over to their service.

*Do NOT cancel your current service until the port process is complete, doing so may result in you losing the ability to take the number with you.

*You may be required to pay any outstanding balances from your current provider before they release the number. If your service has been suspended for non-payment your current carrier may not release the number to your new carrier until payments have been brought up to date.

*If you are in a contract, you may be required to pay any ETFs (early termination fees) before the number is released from your current provider.

*Many VoIP providers will be more than happy to port your number TO their service, but it may be difficult for you to port the number away from them if you are not satisfied with the service - check the service providers policy for taking your number with you when you leave, or ask them. Land line and cellular carriers are required to port, but VoIP carriers are not bound by all of the same laws as land line or cellular carriers. You may not be thinking about this, since you expect that your new service will satisfy your needs into the foreseeable future.

*Not all VoIP providers allow numbers to be ported TO their service. (Magicjack comes to mind)

*Some VoIP providers will charge you a fee to port your number (Ooma comes to mind).

*Porting to land line service can normally only be done when the line originally was served out of the same central office that serves the address that you will be having the service activated at. In some cases you may be able to port a number to a land line that is not originally served from the central office that serves the address where service will be activated, but this normally comes with added monthly fees, and is normally not a viable option unless you are running a larger business and can not afford to lose your valuable telephone number.

*Make sure that the company that you are porting your number to is reputable, and financially stable. You do not want your new carrier going bankrupt and going out of business leaving you with no way to move your number to a new carrier.

EDIT- If the number that you are porting is your DSL number you WILL have problems. The DSL WILL be disconnected once the porting process is complete

If you have any distinctive ringing numbers, be sure to include them in the port process with your new provider if you do not want to lose those numbers. If your new carrier does not support distinctive ringing, discuss alternate options with your new carrier, such as making it a virtual number, or adding an additional line of service with your current distinctive ringing number.

When you begin the porting process, your new carrier might provide you with a temporary number if they activate the service before the current service is canceled. You may wish to forward your current number to the temporary number that the new carrier provides to you. With call forwarding active on your current line to the temporary number that your new provider gives you, you will be able to answer your calls with your new service. I however do NOT recommend this for businesses. I recommend that businesses leave their old service active for incoming calls while the port completes because call forwarding will only forward ONE incoming call - while the line is active all other callers will get a busy signal.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Current pre paid rates



6/30/11 Due to Virgin Mobile closing an account of ours that had funds in it, that should have been active for 365 days we can NOT recommend using Virgin Mobile at this time! 
[For the latest cell phone rates click HERE]

[unlimited plans HERE] (old)

Straight Talk:
$30 - 1,000 minutes - 1,000 texts - 30MB data - expires 30 days (3c/min)
$45 - unlimited minutes - unlimited text - unlimited data

Page Plus:
$10 - 100 minutes - text 8c each - $1.20/MB - roll over if replenished in 120 days
$25 - 400 minutes - text 8c each - $1.20/MB - roll over if replenished in 120 days
$30 - 1,200 minutes - 1,200 texts - 50MB data - 30 days (2.5c/min*)
$45 - unlimited minutes - unlimited text - 20MB
$50 - 1,000 minutes - text 8c each - $1.20/MB - roll over if replenished in 120 days (5c/min)
*if only counting voice minutes...

Net 10:
 $15 - 200 minutes - 1/2 min for texts -auto-bill 30 days (7.5c/min)
$20 - 200 minutes - 1/2 min for texts - expire 30 days (10c/min)
$30 - 500 minutes - 1/2 min for texts - auto-bill 30 days (6c/min)
$30 - 300 minutes - 1/2 min for texts - expire 60 days (10c/min)
$45 - 600 minutes -1/2 min for texts - expire 60 days (7.5c/min)
$60 - 900 minutes - 1/2 min for texts - expire 90 days (6.6c/min)

Virgin mobile:
$20 - 400 minutes - 30 days  (5c/min)
$25 - 300 minutes - unlimited text - unlimited data
$40 - 1200 minutes - unlimited text - unlimited data
$60 - unlimited minutes - unlimited text - unlimited data (3.3c/min)
20c/min with no plan

Boost mobile:
$50 unlimited minutes - unlimited text - unlimited data
10c/min with no plan

$10 - 30 minutes - no text/data included - 30 days** (33c/min)
$15 - 45 minutes - no text/data included - 30 days** (33c/min)
$15 - 10c/min - unlimited text - (no data included) - 30 days
$25 - 130 minutes - no text/data included - 30 days** (19c/min)
$50 - unlimited minutes - unlimited text - (no data included) - 30 days
$50 - 400 minutes - no text/data included - 30 days** (12.5c/min)
$100 - 1,000 minutes - no text/data included - 90 days (10c/min)
**after you reach gold member status (add $100+ to your account minutes expire in 90 days, and all airtime purchases incur a 15% airtime bonus)

ATT go phone
$3/day unlimited minutes - ? text - ? data
$60 - unlimited minutes - unlimited text - no data included - 30 days
25c without plan

Verizon wireless:
$4/day - unlimited minutes - no text/data included
25c without plan

I did not include some of the other smaller carriers, so you may find a better deal with one of them, the problem with them however is lack of national coverage. I intentionally left out Metro Pretty Crappy Service, because I would not recommend anyone to use their services.

The cheapest per-minute rate would be Page Plus $30 plan that includes 1,200 minutes at 2.5c per minute, which also includes 1,200 text messages and 50MB of data. The amount of minutes and text messages should be sufficient for most users, however the limit of 50MB of data may be a problem for heavy mobile internet users.

If you do not need more than 300 minutes, but are a heavy texter, or mobile internet user, then Virgin Mobiles $25 plan that includes 300 minutes, plus unlimited texting and data would be the best option for you.

If you need more than 300 minutes, and are a heavy texter, or mobile internet user, than the $40 Virgin mobile plan that includes 1,200 minutes plus unlimited text and data should suffice.

If you feel that you need unlimited minutes, unlimited text and unlimited web, then the best offer is Straight Talk's $45 plan.

For light use users, you may want to consider the $3/day unlimited ATT Go phone, although I would recommend against this as if you use your phone every day the bill can add up to $90 for the month while there are unlimited plans for 1/2 that that include much more than what ATT is offering. If you only use your phone occasionally, you may consider just paying boost mobile 10c per minute instead of getting a minute pack with one of the other carriers.

Currently Boost and Virgin are the only carriers that I am aware of that offer blackberry or android phones, blackberry plans for virgin and boost are $10 more than listed plan prices. You might have luck activating a smart phone with one of the other carriers, but to my knowledge they do not offer them directly.

I provided links for you do double check the pricing, since pricing can change at any time.