Friday, August 29, 2008

What Is The Impact Of Telecommunications On The Healthcare Industry?

Telecommunications will continue to play a large role in this space, as health related organizations’ internal and external connectivity needs increase. For example, over the past several years, insurance companies have pushed hospitals to go to an all digital records setup, even doctors' notes. The resulting efficiencies lessens their cost exposure. More digital data should increase data storage, archiving, and retrieval needs. Telecoms’ offering the right mix of services should play an important role.

Also consider the major bandwidth requirements for meeting medical imagery requirements. For example, picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) are computers or networks dedicated to the storage, retrieval, distribution and presentation of images. Most PACSs handle images from various medical imaging instruments, including ultrasound, magnetic resonance, PET, computed tomography, endoscopy, mammograms, etc.

All of these applications eat major bandwidth. So make sure your planning covers not just speed, reduntancy, and uptime .... but also the size of the pipe to handle the load. For assistance in finding a bandwidth solution to meet the exact needs of your healthcare organization ... take advantage of the NO COST support provided here: Medical Imaging Bandwidth

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Satellite Internet .... What Kind Of Performance Can You Expect?

Honestly ... performance will vary. Mostly by location and certainly by weather. Due to both you may have a problem with the quality of the satellite link. For example with VoIP services, you simply cant use them because data transfer latency is too high.

If you have satellite you can check performance by taking a close look at ping statistics. Run a few tests at the same time of day for a few days .... and compare them. With ping test you want to see if at least you get a steady response. For bandwidth tests a good tool is SpeedTest.net.

If the quality is poor, there might be a slight offset between transmitter and receiver. Is there a way which allows you to check if the reception signal is what it is supposed to be? Any trees/leaves in front of the dish? Bad weather conditions? Damaged dish? The environment plays a part in performance also.

If you are looking for a high speed internet solution .... particularly if you are in a rural area ... this portal will search and compare DSL, Cable, and Satellite availabilty, cost, and features by location: High Speed Internet

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Is VoIP Really A Good Choice For Business Communications??

Many businesses today are asking themselves this question ... "is VoIP (voice over internet protocol) really a good choice for my business's communications?" This isn't a question to take lightly. You need to understand what the potential benefits are before jumping to any decision. Then determine if they are substantial enough for your business to take that leap.

What must be realized is that IP is simply a signaling protocol or "method". This enables the intelligence from which advanced features are derived to exist in the network itself, and in a manner that is much more accessible to the end user. This results in a number of benefits to an organization.

A) Features = Productivity -

VoIP makes many more features available in a more accessible and flexible manner and at a lower cost. Of course, just having 575 features available to you doesn't help you. In fact it likely will overwhelm you and you won't bother to learn about any of them.

The key, therefore, is for organizations to examine the many features that VoIP makes available and innovate ways to incorporate them into their business processes. This point cannot be overstated.

Think of a computer. Would a company suddenly replace Microsoft Office with some other word processing and spreadsheet suite without having training sessions for employees? Further, would they replace Microsoft Office just for fun, or would there need to be compelling reasons, such as better features that would enhance productivity? Of course, the answer to both of these is "no".

The same principal must be applied to VoIP. Organizations must invest the time to study what VoIP offerings make possible. They then must have a well-formed cross functional team spend time exploring how these new capabilities mighht be applied within various work functions in order to benefit the company. Only with that approach will a company be able to determine ....

(1) What is the reason to implement VoIP,

(2) What are the elements of a VoIP solution that are desired,

(3) How will VoIP be implemented in each functional area,

(4) What will the results be and how will they be measured.

I could go on for a long time with examples of VoIP features and how they can improve business processes to impact bottom-line results. One simple example I will provide is what is called the "Find-Me, Follow-Me" feature. This enables you to simply make a couple of clicks on your PC before you leave the office, and have your office line forward to your cell phone. WIth this, clients and fellow employees never have to even know what your cell phone number is. This has two main results. First, clients and employees don't waste time dialing the desk phone, but then when voicemail answers they hang up, then call the cell phone. Plus, if the cell phone voicemail answers they often will leave a message there, then call the desk phone again and leave another message there. Extra call costs and time wasted. Second, companies are beginning to realize that a huge part of their cell phone costs are due to employees calling other employees' cell phones - often when that employee is in the office - or at another company location. The point of cell phones is so employees can be in touch at any time. This VoIP feature (which has many other iterations beyond what I have described) enables clients and employees to only dial a single phone number and know that they will reach you directly, whether you are on your cell phone, working from home, or at another company location. Now THATS productivity and cost savings in multiple areas.

B) Security and Business Continuity -

Due to the enhanced level of control and visibility that VoIP provides the end user, an organization can truly "see" and control all aspects of its communications. They'll control the phone numbers, where they route/ring to, what networks they travel over, and so forth. Security organizations can control and monitor communications. For Business Continuity, in seconds you can have your entire call center operation switch to an alternate call center, or have the calls dispatched to employees at their homes.

C) Lower Costs -

In the short term VoIP offers cost savings over traditional land line phone use (e.g calling costs, particularly international); for the long term planning VoIP offers seamless connections to remote locations which creates an entirely new paradigm when planning future expansions and personnel moves.

When all is said and done VoIP does offer advantages over the standard POTS (Plain Old Telephone System). Whether those advantages make business sense when applied to your company ... is up to you to determine. Do that instead of jumping into a "me too" frenzy ... and you'll make a smarter business decision.

For help in going through an evaluation of whether VoIP is a good choice for your business ... and in making the most cost effective vendor selection if it is (both hardware and service) I strongly recommend you take advantage of the NO COST advice available via Business VoIP Solution

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Part III: Tier 1 Or Tier 2 Bandwidth Provider .... Which Would You Choose For A Bandwidth Solution & Why?

For many companies the prime criteria in making this decision is .... network uptime.

If you're running a 24x7, mission critical (lifesaving, or 24 hour corporate) infrastructure, it pays off highly to use both Tier 2 (for cost savings, generally speaking), a Tier 1, and even a backup network of Tier 3. But, watch your technology. I've seen networks that use a Tier 1 provider for leased line access, then fail over to ISDN for backup. That's horribly ineffective. As the single most common failure point in any physical network remains the last mile. And whatever affects your last mile, tends to affect all circuits simultaneously. Assuming they are in the same pipe or coming from the same CO.

Instead, my rule is - pick the vendor that can give you the highest SLA for the budget, and whom is willing to build a personal relationship.

This gives you a single point to contact when problems arise - but, there's caveats.

All things equal, avoid managed service providers, and favor using your own technicians to manage core routing. This prevents a lot of accidents, although it doesn't prevent a provider side core routing failure. Additionally, in those locations where 24x7 uptime is critical, arrange a second access loop. If you can afford it, SONET (e.g. OC3 bandwidth), or separate copper (e.g. T1 Bandwidth) from a different CO. For a lower cost solution, look at wireless - fixed point, laser, or even EVDO/HSDPA. They're lower speed, but avoid the last mile issues.

Some of my friends have had great success with Sprint as an MPLS carrier, with an EVDO wireless backup infrastructure at critical points. Others have also had good technical success with AT&T, and certainly, they provide most of the loops for the network. Sprint does an excellent job of managing the loops, however, far better than other vendors many have worked with (and sometimes, better than AT&T - if you have to cross the great divides of the baby bells).

What works well is that, with MPLS in general, the actual architecture is left up to you (since "you" do not use managed services). This gives you great flexibility, however, it is resource costly. The few sticking points you may encounter will boil down to getting any provider's groups together - the wireless folks talking to the MPLS group, the MPLS group talking to the firewall/security group, etc. That will vary by provider and application - in my experience, no carrier at any tier is really good at it.

You don't necessarily have to navigate through all the confusion alone. I recommend you take advantage of the free help available at: Bandwidth Solution

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Part II: Tier 1 Or Tier 2 Bandwidth Provider .... Which Would You Choose For A Bandwidth Solution & Why?

Assuming you only have only one connection, and all other things being equal (e.g. pricing, distance, bandwidth, connection to satelite offices, etc), I would seriously consider a Tier 2 provider with links to multiple Tier 1 providers.

Wide-area network outages are rare these days, but having a connection (even once removed) to multiple providers is an added comfort. Your Tier 2 provider should also be able to route traffic to the destination Tier 1 provider which can have some increase in end-to-end speed or latency. In this case any benefit on going Tier 1 over Tier 2 would be marginal. Tier 2 providers may be able to reroute you faster if there is an outage within one provider, and often offer non-technical advantages. Tier 1 providers make a big ado about being Tier 1. But they're also marred with stories of peering failures, localized network failures, and problems getting diverse network connections in colocation agreements.

Non-technically speaking, a smaller provider may also provide better customer service to smaller customers. Also, although I prefaced this with "all things being equal", Tier 2 providers are generally cheaper, and sometimes reach to more remote locations. They may also provide value-added services beyond those of Tier 1.

Generally the term "Tier 2" implies a lesser service … whether it's true or not. The implication behind Tier 1 vs Tier 2 is closer to "Mercedes Benz vs. Ford" than it is to "Blue vs. Red".

I would choose a Tier 1 provider (or two) for larger bandwidth preferably split over multiple connections to different providers. You have reliability, can control your traffic, and have a full pipe to the network. This all implies a more complicated network setup, so prepare to have an engineer or hire a consultant to configure the routers, and of course budget for bigger better routers. I would also choose a Tier 1 provider if you want to connect multiple networks in remote locations … Tier 2 providers, although they may reach further within their areas of operation, will generally not operate in too many metro areas.

For help in making the best decision on a bandwidth solution ... take advantage of the free assistance available here:

Bandwidth Solution

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Part I: Tier 1 Or Tier 2 Bandwidth Provider .... Which Would You Choose For A Bandwidth Solution & Why?

I would have to say "It Depends".

The first question you should ask is "how is the Internet bandwidth going to be used?". Suppose your company has one really big client, and that your company hosted a web site that provided application services for that client. In that case, you would probably want to use the same ISP (likely a Tier 1) that your client uses. In most cases, you will provide the fastest (in terms of Internet router hops) from your client's PCs to your company's mega web site through the Internet Provider's own IP network -- because your client's packets do not have to traverse any public peering points (NAPs). (I only offer up this unlikely example to illustrate a point)

Another more likely scenario is that your company has multiple remote sites that it wants to connect via VPN. In the ideal world, you would want each remote site to install Internet access from the same ISP. This is again so that the number of router hops between the remote sites and your headquarters site through the Internet is minimized, peering point traversals are eliminated, and latency is minimized. If the remote sites are distributed throughout the US, you might need to consider a Tier 1 ISP in order to provide service to all of your remotes. If on the other hand, your remote sites are regional, a strong Tier 2 regional ISP may offer better connectivity, lower prices, and better peering with other regional ISPs.

Of course, another major consideration is the flexibility of the ISP to offer last-mile connectivity options. Can the ISP grow with you? You might start with a single T1 Internet connection, that grows to two or three T1s in a PPP multilink. Where can the ISP take you from there? Is a fiber-optic link into your building (to support a DS3 or OC3 or packet-over-SONET) an option? Is redundant connectivity with diversely-routed fiber an option? How far is your company from the ISP's Point of Presence (POP)? Does the ISP have access to fiber in your area, or would it have to be installed?

Hopefully, I have begun to make a case that bandwidth and price are not the only things to consider when choosing an ISP.

Note that unless you are using MPLS connectivity to other company sites through this Internet connection, QoS really doesn't come into play. An SLA on the other hand, is always a good thing to have -- especially if you are running mission-critical applications for your company (or a client of your company). It is probably not a bad idea to check out the ISP's financial health as well.

All that said ... here's a simplistic justification for selecting a Tier 1.

Tthe simple answer is that the Tier 1 providers privately pier with each other and expand their connections as needed to support their customers and the Internet traffic that they transfer to each other. Tier 2 and below have to purchase bandwidth from Tier 1 providers to move traffic to and from the major internet backbone providers which the Tier 1's represent.

Essentially, the fewer hops you have and potential bottlenecks, the better the providers solution is to your world and the more extensive the backbone and resulting connections to all Internet providers, the better the communication and performance you can expect.

Now of course .... is that what your business "needs" to operate?

Tier-2 providers can provide good service, but if you're setting up a multi-site WAN and all of your sites are within the same Tier-1's service area, its hard to see how you'd be able to get more reliable service than a mesh provided by that Tier 1. All outages would be handled by one vendor ... That really is the big downfall of the tier-2 providers: Your packets are riding somebody else's glass or copper for the last-mile of the trip. Which is coincidentally where 90+% of the problems with a MPLS setup tend to crop-up ... between the neighborhood CO and the CPE at the sites.

The bottom line .... a lot depends on what sort of service you want and where.

To help you walk through making any decision on a bandwidth solution ... I suggest taking advantage of the no cost assistance available here: Bandwidth Solution

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Friday, August 15, 2008

How Can VoIP Support Business Growth??

Here's the question .... how can you convince your management that a VoIP solution will support your business?

The best argument for VOIP is lower communication costs ... but it's not the only reason.

I would suggest using hybrid solutions. Where the bulk of communication, voice, and video are done through VOIP .... and emergency services "fall back" in case of Internet fail is done with minimal classical PSTN solutions.

When I say VOIP from now on I mean 90 % VOIP and some minimal PSTN add-ons.

Why VOIP?

1- Lower communication costs ....

While this is basically clear it still needs to be demonstrated. Assume you have a company that most of its calls are from "overseas" to the USA and vice versa.

You need to get the cost of all such calls currently on one side .... and then compute what would be the cost in case all Intercontinental calls went through a VOIP system.

Now you have the number of calls * local call quantity* local call cost.

You can compare the costs in both situations.

a. I would take the worst case scenario where none of the calls in either side ends in a VOIP end station like Packet8. To make the comparison complete you should add all static costs as well: equipment cost, support cost etc.

b. Simply compare the price of adding a 2MBPS PRI line to increasing your company’s Internet connection BW by 2 MBPS. That will show a lot to VOIP’s favor.

c. Long distance calls are severely affected by duration of the call. While local calls and VOIP goes into the PSTN, are much less affected by the duration. In some places in state calls are not charged individually but a monthly payment is done.

d. Equipment cost per end station is lower. While this is almost always true you need to prove that too by talking to a VOIP equipment provider, for example AVAYA, Cisco, NORTEL. And comparing the prices in both instances.

2. Adding new features to an existing PBX is messy most of the time .... while adding new features, capabilities and capacity is easy in VOIP.

3. A unified communication that has VOIP and IP running on the same enterprise infrastructure is easier to manage .... but of course needs more expertise.

4. You can have 'local' numbers anywhere a VOIP provider has a presence. Want to establish a presence in another state or country - start with a VOIP number in the new location that is answered by an existing office.

5. It allows you to virtualize your office. For example, a company provides after hours customer support by employing people to work from home in four time zones. VOIP allows the company's PABX to be extended cheaply and easily into their home ... even though they are in different countries and serviced by different telcos/ISPs.

6. Besides lower costs in contrast to PSTN, VoIP services provide better roaming, a possibility to quicker office relocation and total independence from local telephone companies (meaning that in theory you can buy VoIP services from any service provider on the globe). With VoIP services you can build a PBX which serves the same voice services to all employees around the globe thus making it possible to build virtual offices. You can also easily integrate voice, e-mail and presence services with VoIP technologies.

7. More advantages include .... Ubiquity through Unified Messaging, phone mobility, geographic growth through MPLS networks using centralized services, 50% less cabling in LAN, use a portable with VoIP Client plus headsets and digital/voip phones cease to be necessary, corporate voice can go through a data MPLS network, you can receive calls over the internet on your contact center.

Keep in mind that while trying to convince your company to favor a VOIP solution ... it is also important to be open and explain all the pros and cons, everything.

* Quality of voice is similar to regular PSTN solutions but not exactly the same as POTS. It might be undiscernibly but still some difference exists. How close the quality of VOIP depends on how well your company’s infrastructure is ready for VOIP, how good an SLA (Service Level Agreement) you have with you Internet Service Provider.

* When the Internet is attacked intentionally or unintentionally all VOIP equipment, end points, VOIP phones will be affected. It is very rare that a PSTN system is brought down except when a catastrophe happens and everyone is trying to call everyone.

* Voip gained such a bad reputation over the last few years, as everyone still keeps talking about low call costs and free calls. VoIP is a reasonable cost installation but not Cheap at least if you use decent kit. If you try and do everything on the cheap then you get bad call quality etc and loads of hate mail from management.

There you go ... most everything you need to develop a strong argument for implementing a VoIP solution in your company. For additional assistance to work through all the specifics .... and find the most cost effective providers (hardware and services) .... I suggest using Business Voip Solution. Their help is NO COST to you .... another advantage.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Who Is Telarus .... And How Can You Get A Piece Of The Pie??

You might have heard of Telarus .... the top award winning telecom Master Agency according to the Telecom Association. And if not, you should have.

Telarus is a hybrid of three essential components for tomorrow’s telecom sales company. These three components are: a master agent who supports vendor contracts, a telecom pricing and management software product firm, and internet marketing/lead generation. Telarus leverages the combination of all three disciplines to provide its agents with warm service leads, real-time quotes and proposals, individual agent support, integrated CRM, not to mention commissions in line with other master agencies. Telarus’ core product is value.

Likewise, Telarus holds a United States patent for real-time T1 price quoting, which it shares liberally with its agents who generate proposals in under 10 seconds. Not only do Telarus agents have access to pricing, they can also see their exact commission from each carrier right on the quote, allowing them to balance customer needs versus their own compensation. Likewise, all of the paperwork required for each vendor is listed on the quote itself, taking the guesswork out of completing orders.

Telarus hosts weekly training calls with its “Closer” agents, monthly calls with its “Lead Generator” agents, and monthly calls with its growing network of over 2000 VARs. All calls are recorded and saved for agents who could not attend the training and for new agents who join after the fact.

Each agent has the ability to add Telarus’ patented GeoQuote pricing module to their own web site using a “GeoQuote XML Plug-in”, adding instant value to the web properties owned and managed by Telarus agents.

In 2006 Telarus created VARNetwork.com, a nationwide consortium of independent telephone equipment vendors and network integrators. Telarus agents .... and prospects seeking telecom hardware and/or service .... can enter their information to locate VARs in their local area. These equipment and repair leads have allowed our agents to supply their VAR partners with opportunities to sell their core products; often times earning the trust and reciprocation that eludes most telecom agents today.

Lastly, Telarus is the author of T1BackOffice.com, a private-label-capable back office web site that other Master Agents can use to run real-time quotes, set up and support subagent profiles, manage commission payments, and to provide access to the VAR Network to their own agents. In February 2007 Telarus was awarded the MVP and X-Factor awards from XO for posting the largest year-over-year sales growth (in percentage) of any master agency in addition be being named Level3 top agent for 2006. Telarus also boosts another winning streak, being named platinum partner by ACC Business and NewEdge Communications for the third consecutive year.

Creating technology that enables people to build strong and meaningful relationships is the essence of Telarus.

If you are interested in a Master Agent or VAR relationship with Telarus .... you can learn more and register via this website: Become A Telarus Partner or Marketing Broadband Lines

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Is VoIP The Right Solution For Your Small - Medium Size Business?

The truth is .... it depends what your business is as to how VOIP can support it.

VoIP technology provides two main advantages:

- Cost of monthly service from telephone company

- Seamless connection of multiple office locations with full functionality of the user handset. (Central Reception, Central Messaging, Unified Messaging (e-mails & voicemail), Intercom, Paging, Call Transfers)

It should be noted that you can utilize VoIP technology to connect multiple locations without replacing existing office phone systems. Gateways can be used with most PBX's and Key Systems.

You can also create hybrid solutions; install VoIP Phone systems at the main office and/or remote locations; use the same local phone service which you are currently using (no loss of dial tone if the internet connection goes down) for each location or just the central location. Connect to each remote location (single VoIP phone or VoIP phone system) via the internet. The bandwidth size of the connecting internet pipe would depend on how many users are at each location.

In the short term VoIP offers cost savings; for the long term planning VoIP offers seamless connections to remote locations which creates an entirely new paradigm when planning future expansions and personnel moves.

- Store managers can be connected to the store phone system while working at another store or remote office.

- Sales personnel in widespread markets can be connected to the office via the internet and have the same functionality as being physically in the office. This eliminates drive time; improves productivity; and reduces cost (less office space needed at the main office)

- Improved customer service; because you can transfer a caller to anyone on your network the caller gets to the right person without having to make another call. Your customer is happier and your company can utilize existing personnel and not have to double staff for multiple locations (another cost savings)

Top VoIP equipment vendors are Allworx, Avaya, and Nortel.

VoIP is available from many different vendors including Packet8, Lingo, and VoIP. You'll find more on these vendors here: Small Business VoIP. For larger organizations needing an enterpsrise solution you can take advantage of no cost consutning through Business VoIP.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

"Skype" And "Failure" In The Same Sentence?

Well, Skype certainly wasn't a failure for the founders! Financially. And any way you cut it, it's the most successful and widely utilized "free VoIP" service on the planet.

HOWEVER, there is of course some truth to the charge that Skype is a failure:

- Proprietary technology based upon P2P vs. open; so non-interoperable (could have been SIP)

- Sold out to eBay, and they haven't done anything with it; it still exists but the "strategic synergy" just never happened. eBay had to take a HUGE writeoff.

- The quality is sometimes great, but often terrible; you can't rely upon it.

- Uneven implementation of advanced features. For example, you can get a voicemail box; but you can't create a custom message.

- Roundly criticized for poor customer service. But hey, it's almost free what do you expect?

I would argue that on one level it's a raging success; but on another it's a bit of a dud.

However, you cannot say the founders did not create something truly great; or that they didn't personally make out like bandits (financial success). Overall, I'd give it a pretty high rating for innovation, and for timing of the sale. It set many precedents that every new VoIP/UC service provider will (should!) study for years. And eBay is probably going to turn around and sell it to someone else - they have a new CEO and he isn't the type to let grass grow.

On the other hand .... I am still trying to understand how Skype will sustain profitability.

The service is a commodity, network effects of being on the same system as your friends are only going to last for so long, and the commercialization of Skype services is rather tepid. One of my friends used it for the first year of his consulting business as his initial phone number, since the cost of entrance/switching was low. He then transported the number to a fixed-line service provider once the business was going steady. Had all kinds of tech issues with availability, line quality, and consistency that made further use not feasible (imagine telling a client that you cannot hear them because you are too cheap to get a real phone line).

Skype knows that, but Skype does nothing to fix the issues ... which to me speaks of a lack of business strategy. I guess they simply do not know what to do. Being part of another 500 pound gorilla in a commodity business that does not know what to do seems to rub off.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Just What Is Hosted PBX???

Confusion rains when you don't understand the definition of terms. "Hosted IP Centrex", "IP Centrex", "Hosted PBX", "Hosted IP PBX" .... just what is what?

Which of them are identical???

#1 isn't a sum of #2 and #3 or #4 .... right?

Just keep this in mind .... every provider names their product whatever they want. There are no name police.

Generically, I would say that 1, 3 and 4 are likely the same things. But one company's "hosted IP-PBX" will be different from another company's "hosted IP-PBX." The key word is "hosted." "Hosted" means that the processor is in the provider's network -- not hosted means that the processor is in a device on the customer's premise.

How does one choose between 1, 3 and 4? Well, you don't do it by the name. You do it by capabilities, service and support, expected dependability, and cost.

There .... hopefully that will clear things up.

If you need more help than that ... you can get no cost assistance finding the best fit VoIP solution for your business needs here: Business VoIP

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Apple iPhone Or Rim Blackberry (Any Model #) .... Which Would You Choose?

I can assure you that anyone that recommends something other than the iPhone hasn't used one. My smart phone techno-geek brother has had every conceivable Blackberry, Treo and various Windows Mobile devices .... and can categorically state that they are absolutely prehistoric by comparison.

While it is certainly true that the iPhone could stand some improvement (voice tags on address book entries, improved battery life, etc.) the ease of use factor is undeniable. Try to set up a 3-way call on the fly with any other phone, or merge two calls (one active, one on call waiting) with any other phone and you'll see what I mean. It's all a breeze with the iPhone.

Depending on how you structure your To-Do lists the iPhone may be problematic as it currently doesn't have one. This is certainly a temporary issue as Apple has released their software development kit (SDK) and someone will probably step up to the plate and build one to give away/sell in the App Store.

Oh, yes, the APP STORE! Tell me one other phone - including the Blackberry - that offers as wide a variety of free and paid applications for your phone, in one place, as easy to install, as the iPhone. It rocks and blows the pants off Palm-software sites of the past like MobileGearHQ and others. This is the way that apps SHOULD be delivered and sold for smart phones.

If you want Internet access you'll find no better solution than using the built-in browser (Safari) on the iPhone. Again, my brother can tell you that the differences between any WAP-centric browser and a "real" browser are quantum. He's enjoyed the ability to click links in emails, sync all of his bookmarks, and do real browsing on the iPhone. You won't get that same experience with a Blackberry or Treo by a long shot.

While the network that AT&T uses for the original iPhone (EDGE) is relatively slow .... it's plenty fast enough for email and for most web pages. The new version is vastly faster but there are trade-offs with battery life. For now my brother is keeping his original iPhone. Another advantage is that either version is dual-mode. So when you're within range of a WiFi hot spot that you can get onto (not the type that you have to register on using a web page, like Boingo or T-Mobile, but rather the type that you'd have in your home or office), you'll be surfing at speeds comparable to a laptop on a broadband connection.

There's a lot more that I can tell you about the iPhone - but probably the most powerful testimonial to choosing it over other "smart" phones is to use one. Once you see how simple it is to operate, how much more expandable it will be (post-SDK) than either the Blackberry or Treo, and how it changes the way you think a phone should work - because it works the way a phone should work - I believe you'll be as satisfied as my brother is with his.

Now if you insist on getting something other than an iPhone .... or simply want to look at what else is available for Smart Phones and compare .... I suggest using this free online portal:

Compare Smart Phones

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Friday, August 01, 2008

What Is The Best Way To Get A Cheap Cell Phone Plan??

For sake of discussion ... let's say you're getting a new cell phone, and have already decided to get Verizon. You've settled on getting a BlackBerry, probably the Curve, so you will be needing a data package, etc.

The question is .... what is the best way to get a plan and phone? Online? The Store? Costco?

If you are looking for the best price on the device, then online is the way to go. You can certainly buy from the Verizon site, but also have a look at Wirefly, as these places offer about the lowest equipment prices I've seen. Most of the time the phone and even some accessories are free.

One word of caution, though. When you shop from an agent (any company besides the carrier), read the terms carefully. There are sometimes restrictions on lowering your plan within the first six months, with significant penalties if you do. However, the easy way around this is, when you initially sign up, get the cheapest plan you can, within reason. Then, if that doesn't meet your needs within the first few weeks to a month, move up to the next one. You'll incur no penalty this way. Also, read the terms related to canceling your service before your contract ends. You will owe the carrier an Early Termination Fee (ETF), but you may also owe one to the dealer you purchased the phone from. This isn't always the case, but just be aware of it. The items I've mentioned in this paragraph can apply anywhere other than the carrier's Web site, stores, or telesales. You can encounter this at any third-party agent, so if you have any doubts, ask questions and read everything you're given.

And I have to mention rebates. You're going to encounter them all over the place. If you plan on making that a big part of your buying decision, you need to understand how tricky they can be. I've seen terms that state that you have to wait six months before you can file the paperwork, and you only have a one-month window to do it, or the rebate is void. These things sometimes appear designed to cause you to make a mistake and not be able to redeem them, so be warned.

You may consider looking at other carriers too....other than Verizon. So if you look at other options, and still like Verizon, nothing wrong with that. However, if you haven't, then you should consider all your options. For example, AT&T offers about the same coverage as Verizon in many areas, but their 3G footprint is much smaller right now. However, they use GSM. So their devices work much better overseas, since GSM is the dominant wireless standard around the world. Verizon, Sprint, Alltel, and some local and regional carriers use CDMA, which works well in the U.S. and Canada but not so well (or not at all) in other countries. There are some CDMA devices that also have GSM for international roaming, but they are limited. If international usage is an issue I'd suggest looking into OneSim.

As for Sprint and T-Mobile, my friend had Sprint back in 2001 and 2002 and found their network to be quite weak. Especially inside buildings, with enough dropped calls to almost drive him insane. That may have changed .... but they aren't hitting any high marks in customer service right now, and my understanding is that they're bleeding customers. There's virtually no chance they'll cease operations, but they seem to be in a state of disarray. So, unless you need a really cheap data plan, then I see no reason to choose them. T-Mobile seems to be a good carrier overall, but they don't have much in the way of 3G service. And because of the frequency that their 3G network uses, only a few devices can access it. However, like AT&T, they use GSM, so your device will work well overseas.

One last thing. I've mentioned 3G a lot. Having it is very useful if you are going to be using lots of data, such as getting maps and transferring lots of files, but it really isn't as critical if you only plan to check the occasional e-mail.

With everything I've just said .... I suggest finding a cell phone online using this portal:

Cell Phone Comparison & Cheap Cell Phone Deals

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