We have been working with a company that was wavering between PBXware and Thirdlane. They have demos running of each option and are testing all of the features before making a final decision.
When testing inbound faxing (fax-to-email), the company ran into an issue on the Thirdlane demo. They reached out to Thirdlane support – it is worth mentioning here that their support department is just one person – who had no idea that their system even included inbound faxing. So much for troubleshooting the issue.
Fortunately, the testers were savvy enough to resolve the issue themselves, but left with a feeling of wariness about the utility of Thirdlane support.
Our Account Manager on the case made this poignant comparison: “If you bring your car in for an oil change only to find that the mechanic didn’t even know your car had an oil filter, you will be peeling out of there faster than you can say ‘rip-off’.”
In all seriousness, no platform is perfect and you are going to need support well beyond the initial purchase and installation. Don’t settle for anything less than an experienced, knowledgeable, and dependable team of support professionals.
It is always with caution that one should speak of competitors and their products when clearly they are better able to do so themselves. All the more so with Thirdlane, given how respectfully Alex Epshteyn at Thirdlane has always spoken of PBXware.
I am often asked why to choose PBXware over Thirdlane and it seems only right to write.
Curious about this question is the clear circumstances in which it is asked. These can be described in three categories:
Existing users of Thirdlane’s Multi-Tenant PBX who have had reason to look further.
New Providers looking to start a business line with very little resource
Well established businesses – either ITSPs, VARs or Long Established Sellers of Phone Systems
For the first group, Thirdlane customers have dial tone. However, their ITSP is now so busied with the running of the business that the cost of maintaining the system takes on greater importance.
It is very noticeable how few subscribers the pain threshold seems to bite. So often, fewer than 100 subscribers – a handful of customers. These, still quite new, Service Providers are also considering how to automate the monthly invoice run and, ideally, the provisioning of services.
A customer wants a Queue, a Conference, an IVR… Surely this should take no more effort than checking boxes to solve everything from the feature’s creation to the monthly invoice going out, right?
There also are issues of support. Again the sheer stress that happens once ‘real customers’ come on board and previously naive dreams are exposed. Answers need to be found immediately both to ‘how do I do x, y, z?’ questions and, less often, bugs or critical failings.
Increasingly the need for integration to the desktop is a make or break to getting End User businesses. Whether in the form of onsite systems from the Traditional Vendors or the large Internet Telephony Service Providers often using Broadsoft platforms, the market at large expects standard offerings to have presence, chat and more at the finger tips. Mobility is next.
What has also been learned by bitter experience is problems that may be caused by trying to piece-on a third-party software just because you don’t have it yourself. This could be an Operator Panel, for example, that can be strung through the Asterisk Manager. There’s no choice, you have to do it. The customer is screaming at you. So you spend an hour to download it, install it, try it yourself, and another hour to read the manual. You repeat that with the customer. Next day, the customer wants something that is missing … it is crashing … whatever happened to your sales plan that week?
For some though, there is the matter of scalability. To simply ‘add another server’ and ‘stick on another few hundred customers’ is not enough. All the customers need to be brought together in a single interface to be found easily and redundancy needs to be in clusters often with the options of dual location.
Stay tuned for Thirdlane vs PBXware, Part 2: Cost of Entry and check out these other posts in the meantime:
After our previous Thirdlane post, we were slightly taken aback with the response we had. Some Thirdlane customers were so dissatisfied they wanted refunds. We are hearing from an increasing number of dissatisfied Thirdlane customers.
The more we speak with these Thirdlane customers, the more we come to understand that sooner or later that wall is hit and there seems no way round or beyond.
A good example is Unified Communications. The market wants it, is insisting on it, but there’s just a big gap. Where’s the gloCOM?
How does one scale? Where’s the billing integrated or held together somehow?
What about a provisioning platform?
It is, though, the cost of maintaining Thirdlane that seems to hurt. The cost of support.
However we’ll leave you to your own conclusions compared with :
To see is to believe.
The problem also is clear that the longer this goes on the more IPPBX customers will be stuck in one set of infrastructure and dissatisfied to the point they must look elsewhere.
So – what can we do to help ?
Here’s our offer:
Any deposit paid to Thirdlane in the past 3 months we will refund on purchase of a PBXware TELCO Solution from Bicom Systems.
Any existing deployment: we will provide conversion credits to assist.
We will also provide a transition roadmap to assist with the process.
The idea that Thirdlane is more cost effective or cheaper than PBXware is the single largest misconception that we have to deal with when customers are choosing between Thirdlane and PBXwareMultiTenant with its softswitch capability.
To be clear, this is an issue confined uniquely to VoIP Entrepreneurs starting new businesses and facing many unknowns of how much market they will obtain. For Old Hacks, who have a little more certainty of their markets, revenues, and ROIs, the issue has long passed onto minimising the pain of managing a real business and getting the features that matter to customers.
Curiously, the point at which this turn seems to take place is low. 100 extensions and the burden of managing the Thirdlane platform appears to overwhelm Service Providers. Suddenly, the original investment that will never be recouped is gone. References available.
Here are some, well actually many items to consider about costs. Combined, we really do believe you will come to the agreement that the notion that Thirdlane costs less is simply not true:
ASSUMPTION: That because PBXwareMulti-Tenant PBX has more features in a professionally organized manner – “it simply must be a greater cost” –
just because PBXware has more features and functions does not mean it must be a more expensive product. Our business model is based around ‘Starting Partnerships’. We wish to work with those who have the local presence to take us further faster and will gladly work with you to get you started in your endeavor. Increasingly, we have many more products that can be put through distribution channels to help us both build later business.
The wish to get started at the lowest “base” becomes blinding:
Almost as above, but we have time again seen start-ups so preoccupied with their status of ‘starting out’ that they seem almost compelled to try to ‘associate’ themselves with the most barebones infrastructure they can possibly find. Even though options are available for no more cost, and possibly less cost, that would provide them a base to reach to the stars and have in place the necessary architecture and structure that their businesses might move forward.
Once your first server is filled, how to then expand the network in a seamless manner so that it is clear where each customer registration group is being kept.
Future Proof 2:
The investments needed to stay in this market are not decreasing. Mobile Integration, Desktop Integration, CTI, Alarm Monitoring, Call Center, Video… Each need dedicated teams and to sustain this requires large revenues that are only possible with the distribution of large systems.
Any new business needs marketing material and ideally support in generating business. Bicom System provides extensive marketing material at source to its partners as well as market research and suggestions of positioning. Through case studies and internet marketing we have also been able to promote partners.
Bicom Systems does not charge $175.00 / hour for support, it is a flat rate, unlimited support. $175.00 is of course no money at all to a startup ITSP – ‘if you assume you do not need support’. If, however, it is after your existing budget is eaten up and the customer is screaming at you and that customer is paying you $20 per month, the problem takes six hours to solve, then, suddenly, you don’t even have a business model and all the investment to date is beginning to look like sunk costs.
And then what?: I
t does not start and stop with getting a bit of software. The whole operation of running an ITSP raises questions. Not least ‘what the next customer wants’. Bicom Systems Account Managers exist to advise on that next customer and, if necessary, provide custom work.
The customer comes to your web site, they choose their subscription, enter their details, the money is taken, the account is provisioned, the order is sent to get the phones out in the post, and you are still in bed. Not yet ready for this dream, possibly – but it would be good to know it is ready for you when you are.
Making a Quick Decision does not mean Making a Bad Decision:
As said above, Bicom Systems simply can give you more either today or as your business grows. We are very used to getting you started. We implore you, take a breath and let us do what we do best and find you a way to have the best platform from which to move forward. It may just save you from putting all your savings down sunk, then spending the next two years trying to work back to the same start position through agony, before having the investment to start again. If the words seem harsh – the references are available.
So, what is the answer? No idea :) Until we talk to you and get to know your business fully and properly.
Through the last few years of dealing with all types of ventures, deploying/designing hundreds of projects, and trying to accommodate everyone’s needs from the most simple to the most complex (that will never end), I have been trying to teach myself and my customers a simple idea: There is no such thing as a perfect platform. Continue reading →