I recently had the chance to interview Hicham Benselloum, Technical Operations Manager at MKA Associates, Inc., an architecture design and planning firm based in Baltimore, Maryland. The company has been a Covad (News - Alert) T1 customer for years and recently decided to sign up for Covadï¿½s Hosted IP Telephony solution. Hereï¿½s what he had to say:
GG: Please describe your company.
HB: MKA Associates Inc. is an architecture design and planning firm with a long background in healthcare. MKA is composed of 14 professionals (five architects, two interior designers, two construction/project management professionals, four CADD operators, and an executive assistant). MKA has been providing planning and design services to the healthcare industry since 1993, and due to its success and new additions, MKA has been expanding its services to the corporate world as of 2005.
The president and founder, Mitchell Alguadich, is a registered architect and medical planner specializing in healthcare since 1983. As a medical designer and planning specialist, Mr. Alguadich started his career with Ellerbe Becket, moved to a national healthcare consulting firm, and then worked with Medifac Architects as a facilities planner and programmer. Prior to starting MKA, Mr. Alguadich was the vice president for planning with RTKLï¿½s Health Sciences Group in Baltimore.
GG: What challenges were you facing that made you decide it was time to upgrade or replace your existing phone system?
HB: Our move was the main trigger for our decision to replace our phone system. In addition, we were looking into our high monthly bills, and were faced with even bigger costs if we were to keep the same phone system. Furthermore, our system was just a very plain, featureless system and was not helping our productivity or satisfying our growing telecommunications needs.
GG: Why did you decide to go with a hosted IP telephony solution?
HB: The decision was not hard at all; not only was Covadï¿½s IP Telephony service very cost effective, it promised to provide us with ï¿½gazillionsï¿½ of features and possibilities.
GG: Were there any specific benefits or features that you were hoping to take advantage of with the move to IP?
HB: The list of features is long: an auto attendant to serve as a backup whenever there is a need and to provide a professional image to our clients; call forwarding features at no extra cost; the possibility of monitoring the whole phone system and having access to almost all features from a very simple Mobile Smart Phone; access to voice mail from any Internet connection; adding/relocating extensions on our own... and lots more.
GG: Please describe the benefits you have experienced since switching to IP Telephony.
HB: The benefits are well worth the switch. When a new employee or intern joins the team, no problem! We can create an extension and assign a phone number in a matter of minutes. If someone is out, there are no worries about missing an important phone call ï¿½ the forwarding feature works like a charm. Letï¿½s say you are on a worksite and need access to a phone/address book or to check on missed calls, or to review voice mails, or to stop or change the forwarding feature... well, it is all very easy and it can all be done from any PDA, smart phone, laptop ï¿½ in fact, from any Internet connection.
GG: Please describe any negative experiences you have had since the switch.
HB: So far so good. Lots of people worry about losing connectivity and, therefore, phone service. We shared this concern as well. I am glad to report it hasnï¿½t happened yet. If it does, we have a couple of land lines and several mobile phones to transfer all the calls.
GG: Why did you choose Covadï¿½s solution?
HB: We have been a Covad T1 customer for years and have no complaints about the service, the knowledge, the responsiveness, or the friendliness of the staff. After we talked about the VoIP solution, checked the abundance of the features, and checked the prices in comparison with other providers, we determined Covad was, by far, the best suited to our needs, and we were right on the money. We couldnï¿½t have gotten a better package anywhere else.
GG: What advice do you have for other companies that are debating the switch to IP Telephony?
HB: You are probably afraid that you are going to be disappointed and lose all your business because your whole phone system is going to go ï¿½KABOOM.ï¿½ Well, that is not happening. Instead, here is what will happen when you switch to Covad:
ï¿½ First, the quality of your communications is going to be better.
ï¿½ Second, you are going to gain tons of features, and you can manipulate your system with a few mouse clicks.
ï¿½ Third, you are going to gain a lot of efficiency. No one will lose a call ï¿½ whether they are in the office, on a site, or working from home.
ï¿½ Fourth, no need to call the phone company to add another line or do any maintenance for you.
ï¿½ Fifth, you are going to save a load of money.
ï¿½ Sixth, Covad is going to be happy and invest more on developing other features and be even more competitive.
ï¿½ Seventh, you can schedule all your conference calls in advance via Outlook.
The list goes on.