Smoothstone IP Communications: The Voice of Experience

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Smoothstone IP Communications, headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, was founded in 2000 as a next-generation IP services company, and became the first managed VoIP services company in the United States.

This privately held firm developed a proprietary IP communications platform that was designed to deliver the benefits of converged networks and IP communications to mid-size enterprises—especially those features that had previously been restricted to Fortune 500-class organizations.

From its modest start providing service in two cities, Smoothstone has grown to become a nationwide provider that offers dial tone in over 6,000 local calling areas, with voice, data, and network management services to some of the world’s most respected enterprise clients, including Dish Network, Hitachi, Panasonic, Re/Max, and the United Way.

Today, Smoothstone has more than 120 employees, and claims a near-perfect customer retention rate—over 99 percent of the customers it has ever had are still using the company’s services.

Smoothstone’s platform offers local dial tone in some 8,000 domestic rate centers, domestic and international long distance over a private MPLS network, along with a full suite of business communication applications, including hosted call center solutions, disaster recovery, call routing, voice recording, and interactive collaboration.

The firm’s network is based upon Cisco technology, including a set of advanced data and voice management tools. In addition, the company claims that their architecture was the first to support hosted fax to the desktop (2001), VoIP E911 service, (2002) and IP trunking to Cisco CallManager (2005).

Smoothstone targets customers with 200 or more users, with a typical customer having 900 users. Typical installation time ranges from 45 to 90 days, depending on the customer’s migration requirements.

Smoothstone CONNECT is a clear channel IP circuit over which the company delivers voice, data, and video communications over a single highly reliable, secure, and cost effective connection that provides dynamic bandwidth allocation. This solution can deliver voice services to any system, via TDM IP trunking, IP PBX trunking, or Smoothstone’s COMPLETE full managed IP desktop solution.

The CONNECT service includes local, long distance, and international services, and is available via multiple connection types, such as T1, DS3, Metro Ethernet and xDSL. For enterprises that already have an IP PBX solution deployed on premises, the trunking solutions can connect directly to any Cisco or Avaya IP PBX, allowing the migration to a fully managed, outsourced VoIP environment to occur as business requirements dictate.

Each CONNECT client receives access to NetStalk, an integrated enterprise network monitoring, management and control system, which enables the end user to monitor the entire WAN (including routers, circuits, and their performance) on a 24/7 basis (see Figure 1). The service includes application layer bandwidth prioritization, router management for status, CPU utilization and memory utilization, a managed firewall with two separate packet control and filtering points, and the ability to integrate Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)-based data from switches and routers.

Smoothstone’s COMPLETE offering is a completely managed, all-inclusive suite of hosted enterprise-class IP communications solutions, which includes Cisco phones, carrier services, applications, and professional management. This all-inclusive voice plan combines direct inward dialing (DID), unlimited local calling, unlimited, four-digit on-net calling, plus domestic and international long distance services. It also provides pinpoint E911 compliance, conference calling, and customized integrated voice response.

Detailed inbound and outbound call reporting is available using the VoiceStalk proprietary call reporting platform, which enables the monitoring or an enterprise’s total calling activity, including local and long distance, inbound and outbound, intra-company and external connections (see Figure 2). This information is provided through a secure web portal, with reports that can be easily copied into a spreadsheet for further analysis.

Smoothstone’s Intelligent CallControl Center is a hosted call center platform, designed to manage and optimize an organization’s call traffic, including every office, agent, and queue, regardless of physical location. Within this system are one standard and three optional feature sets that optimize the characteristics for each individual call center deployment.

The standard CallDirector feature set determines how calls will be routed across all of the organization’s locations, including home-based employees. CallQueueing is an optional feature set for distributing queued calls to agents across multiple locations, via an IP phone or POTS (analog) line. CallMonitoring is also optional, and allows the manager to listen in on employee calls for training, quality assurance, or other purposes, and works with either inbound or outbound calls. CallRecording, the third optional set, can selectively record individual calls or record all inbound, all outbound, or all of an employee’s calls. This feature can search, retrieve and replay the call recordings, and then store them online or download them to any storage media.

Costs for the Smoothstone solutions vary based on the number of services provided, but typically range from $25.00 to $50.00 per per user month.

Our next tutorial will continue our review of various service providers hosted voice solutions.

Copyright Acknowledgement: © 2009 DigiNet Corporation®, All Rights Reserved

Author’s Biography
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.

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