Remember that great year, 1987? For starters, the Dow Jones industrial average closed above 2,000 for the first time, Aretha Franklin became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Simpsons first appeared on TV, and President Ronald Reagan petitioned the Soviet leaders to tear down the Berlin wall. But more to the point, 1987 was the year that 8×8, Inc., headquartered in Santa Clara, California, hung out its shingle as a telecommunications company. Can you say “industry veteran”?
Today, 8×8 is a publicly traded VoIP service provider that employs approximately 250 individuals, reported annual revenues of $62 million in their most recent fiscal year, and maintains a California-based customer service call center operation. More importantly, the firm has made many contributions to the advancement of voice and video communications on both technology and service provision levels. It has been awarded 73 U.S. patents with additional patents pending.
Packet 8’s business services are divided into five broad categories:
- Single Line Business Solutions: the Packet8 Business 2000 digital phone service is targeted for single office or home office applications. The service can be configured with two rollover lines, a single line with call waiting and an optional fax line, or a single line. Service features include voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, three-way calling, find me/follow-me, 7-digit local dialing, and others.
- Mobile Service: Packet8’s MobileTalk service is targeted at business customers with heavy international traffic calling. This service recognizes the international dialing prefix (e.g., a call that begins with “011” or “+”), and then automatically routes the call to the Packet8 network for completion. The company claims that savings greater than 90 percent over typical international rates are then possible.
- Hosted Key System Services: provides the features that small businesses need without the capital expenditures or ongoing maintenance challenges that accompany a traditional premises-based system. Features include enhanced call management, network directory search, shared line appearances, intercom, and personal phone directories.
- IP Trunking Solutions: provide digital quality dialtone for customers with phone systems already in place. This system allows the customer to keep their existing equipment and telephone numbers, with both inbound and outbound calling, toll-free and direct inward dialing (def.) numbers, plus national directory listings. In addition, this service is certified for use with Microsoft’s Response Point small business telephone system (see our coverage).
- Hosted PBX Business Phone System: named the Packet8 Virtual Office, this is the company’s flagship offering, and is currently in use by over 15,000 businesses.
The Virtual Office offering has been targeted at firms with less than 20 employees, although recent scalability enhancements to the system now allow it to serve much larger enterprises, with up to 1,000 extensions.
The system is designed for self-installation and configuration, with very good documentation that walks the customer through the process of configuring the service plan, selecting a login and password for the account, configuring the PBX (see Figure 1), and then configuring the parameters of the individual extensions. Optionally, the system can configured to support ring groups (see Figure 2), and an auto attendant.
Once installed, the system provides a number of business features as part of the service, including: voicemail, auto-attendant, find me/follow me, music/message on hold, conference bridge, three-way calling, Caller ID, call waiting, call transfer, and many others. Both analog (via a broadband phone adapter) and IP telephones are supported, with the IP phones delivered plug and play, and equipped with power-over-Ethernet (PoE) capability. A UPS backup ensures continuous service in the event of a power failure.
Five service plans are currently available:
- The Unlimited Extension plan provides unlimited local and long distance calls to the United States and Canada, plus unlimited international calls to other Packet8 subscribers.
- The Metered Extension provides 250 minutes per month to the United States and Canada and to any other Packet8 subscriber around the globe – with additional minutes billed at 3.9 cents.
- The Global Extension provides unlimited calling to the United States and Canada and over 40 other countries around the world – plus low international rates to all other countries.
- The Fax Extension service provides for 300 minutes of outgoing and unlimited incoming fax service, with additional minutes billed at 3.5 cents.
- The Packet8 Softalk Office is a PC-based softphone application that offers both local and long distance calling, plus advanced Virtual Office PBX calling features.
Cost for these plans range from $24.99 to 39.99 per seat per month, with volume discounts available.
Because it is designed to operate over any public or private broadband Internet connection, the Virtual Office solution is one of the most flexible and scalable business phone services available. Companies with geographically dispersed employees can deploy Virtual Office phone service (and connect all personnel under the same corporate PBX) in any number of worldwide locations equipped with a high-speed data network. Further information on the 8×8 solutions can be found at www.packet8.net.
Our next tutorial will continue our review of various service providers hosted voice solutions.
Copyright Acknowledgement: © 2009 DigiNet Corporation®, All Rights Reserved
Mark A. Miller, P.E. is President of DigiNet Corporation®, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.