The next revolutionary development in telephone technology has arrived in Calgary.
It goes by the unlikely name of VoIP, and communications experts see it as the wave of the future.
But for Calgary small and medium businesses, the future is now. And that’s more than just talk.
Calgary-based Shift Networks has become one of the first companies in the world to use voice over IP technology – VoIP – to deliver business class telephone lines via Internet connections, says Shift president and CEO Trent Johnsen.
Perhaps the last thing a harried small business owner needs is another new technology to learn, but Johnsen says all you have to know is that the Shift Networks system is that it is simply the best business telephone system available.
Johnsen quotes the chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission as describing the VoIP technology as the most important paradigm shift in communication since the invention of the telephone.
And you don’t have to be a giant company with a huge communications budget to make use of this technology. Shift’s package is aimed directly at the little guy.
“This solution is very specifically geared to small to medium-sized businesses – from five to 100 employees – which are often underserved by the other players in the business,” says Johnsen.
The options are so numerous, the ease of use so outstanding, that Johnsen says it is “almost like running your own telephone company out of your business.”
What does VoIP do?
In simplest terms, VoIP technology from Shift Networks runs your business telephone system through your computer network, using Internet connections. It’s as simple as running your Internet connection into a Shift IP telephone, then running a cable from the telephone to your PC, and just like that you now have dial tone through your high-speed Internet connection.
“When you run it that way, you have complete control over all of the functionality and features of your business telephone system through a Web browser,” he says.
By virtually operating your own phone system, you cut the time for changes to your phone system from weeks to minutes. Johnsen cites as an example the ordering of a new telephone line for your business. Order it through a conventional telephone service, and you could be waiting anywhere from 10 business days to five weeks for the new line.
A Shift customer can activate a new business telephone line within a minute through the Web browser. Johnsen says it’s like going from train travel to airplanes.
“A three person office with our solution can do more with their business telephone system than the entire staff of major telecommunications company could do for them over a period of months.”
What can’t Shift’s telephone system do? It won’t make your morning coffee, but that’s about it.
Shift’s unique bundle of business services begins with a dedicated phone line for each of your employees that includes all of the features of your regular local phone
service, and adds:
* Caller ID, call forwarding, three-way calling:
* Visual voicemail with Outlook or other inbox
* Internet access;
* 60 minutes free long-distance per user
anywhere in North America;
* ‘Follow me’ Web browser coverage that allows you do direct your calls anywhere, anytime;
* Powerful Web-based user administration of phone system and set features.
Everything has been simplified through the browser. If you’ve ever tried to program the speed dial keys on your traditional phone, you’ll know that it’s hardly worth the trouble. With Shift, you simply type in your most frequently used numbers beside the keys you want to use, press ‘save’ and your phone is programmed.
You also completely control how and where your business telephone rings. The ‘Call Coverage’ feature allows you to direct your line in or out of your office through a Web browser. You’re in control, 24 hours a day.
Another option, called a SoftPhone, allows you to turn your computer into a telephone. “You can run a SoftPhone on your notebook computer, and anywhere you have wireless high-speed broadband access, your computer essentially becomes an extension of your business telephone.”
The service is hosted in Shift’s Network Operating Centre and is delivered over existing data networks to Shift’s IP phones, manufactured by market leaders such as Mitel and Cisco. It looks just like the standard business telephone we’ve all been using for decades, but it is, in fact, a computer.
And even though you are no longer using a traditional telephone company, Canadian law allows you to take your phone number with you when you change carriers.
As for cost, Johnsen says it’s largely the same as traditional phone service, but with a “far richer, more efficient user experience, with better equipment. “If a small-medium business considers the cost of
owning, managing, depreciating their own small business telephone system, it will be significantly less
After purchase of a Shift phone, the service begins at just $25 a month per user. If you choose to rent the phone instead, the cost is $39.95 a month.
The official launch of Shift Network’s VoIP service will be held at the Convergence ’04 Expo in Calgary June 2. Within the year, Shift expects to be operating in six or seven major centres in Alberta and B.C., with the Edmonton-Red Deer corridor expected to be active by this summer. Vancouver should be ready to go by September.
Shift Networks trades on the TSX Venture Exchange under the symbol SHF.
Visit Shift Network at their website,
www.shiftnetworks.com, or phone 403.770.7443.