Our most popular download – How to Start & Grow an ITSP – ends with a special section that we have not advertised very much. Clearly the whitepaper is a tutorial to starting an Internet Telephony Service Provider, and we even delve into moving that ITSP beyond the start-up stage. But our secret is that the final section covers “Future Proofing”.
Once the excitement of getting started wears off and growth becomes an expectation rather than a major accomplishment each month, ITSPs may begin to worry about sustainability. That is why we included a section on how to “stay in the game”, so to speak.
We cover things that can go wrong and how to deal with them and how to “future-proof” your ITSP with long-term customers and solutions.
Becoming an ITSP or Phone Company is easier than it has ever been before. As communications technology has become more advanced in recent years, it has also become more simple and user-friendly. All it takes is a dream and some motivation to get started.
You can become an Internet Telephony Service Provider with four essential components:
Hardware – This starts with a VoIP Softswitch and may include servers, routers, IP Phones, etc.
ITSP stands for Internet Telephony Service Provider and describes companies that provide IP telephone communications.
With gateway servers connected across the globe, ITSPs make it possible to connect phones via Internet. ITSPs are essentially VoIP providers that serve other businesses and end users.
Even more important than the question of ‘what is an ITSP’ is the question of ‘how to become an ITSP’. We addressed this question in our Start Your Own ITSP whitepaper. Learn more and download the free PDF here.
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: