Nortel, Comdial, Vodavi, AT&T, Lucent, Bell, Atlas, Saturn, Salta, Picasso, Meridian, Stromberg Carlson, Hitachi, GTE, TIE, Executone
These are a few of the companies that formerly manufactured phone systems for the US market, but have either gone bankrupt or were absorbed into another company. Literally millions of companies utilize these communications systems currently, and chances are, if you are reading this article, your business may be too. So what happened to these manufacturers and why are they no longer around? How can you protect your company from making a similar decision in the future by choosing a manufacturer who will be in it for the long haul? CSM desires to educate our clients on these issues and more.
Why Old Phone Systems Need to be Replaced
When we begin the process of replacing a phone system, more often than not, it is one of the manufacturers mentioned in the title of this paper. Generally the reason we were called in is because either the system is becoming maxed out or is not stable enough and starting to fail. These are very different problems, but both are rather urgent. Many clients had no idea that their old phone system was out of “ports” or places for digital phones to be programmed onto their system, so when new staff is being hired, a rather unpleasant problem comes to light. On the other end, if a phone system is failing, the need for replacement can be sudden and catastrophic such as a main cabinet failing, or perhaps more mundane, like phones resetting themselves or the system losing programming (a sign of a bad, CPU, by the way). The main problem with old systems from defunct manufacturers is that parts become scarcer as time goes by, leaving their customers without reliable replacement pieces or cards. As the parts become scarcer two problems arise. First, they raise in price and are no longer easily found. Second, the parts that can be acquired often contain defects, such as not all the ports working on a card.
CSM has seen these issues recently with Nortel systems we service. Even though Nortel was a HUGE manufacturer, selling millions of systems and phones, as time has gone by since their acquisition by Avaya in 2008, parts are starting to become scarce. The old M Series of telephones, while still very prevalent in the marketplace, have raised in price. There was a time when a quality refurbished Nortel M series phone could be purchased online from any number of retailers for under $30. Now, in order to find a good looking phone without defects, the price is around $75. Cheaper sets can be found, but they will be off color, missing plastic button designations, or have defective speakers. Regarding cards or cabinets, they are available too, but have gone up in price. We have seen Nortel CiCS and Nortel MiCS cabinets on the market for as low as $200, but again, these usually have ports that are bad on them, which may be OK in an emergency situation, but are certainly not a long term solution for any business.
How to Choose a Good New Phone System Manufacturer
The long and the short of it is, you can never know where a company will be 5, 10, or even 20 years from now. Siemens, one of the largest producers of everything from turbines to trains sold their telecom division to an American private investment group in 2008, who re-branded as Unify and has all but disappeared from the US market. Looking back on this, it should have been evident to more analysts that this would take place. Siemens had progressively cut staff every year since 2000, had a disastrous launch of a channel partner program which was essentially mothballed after 2003, and decreased R&D consistently for nearly every quarter. They leaned on their name brand recognition, which was powerful, but did not keep up with the industry as it moved into VoIP.
So what should you do in order to choose a better company who will be around for the long term? Check out the R&D figures for the company and make sure that they are being raised or at minimum are not being decreased over time. Another matter to keep in mind is growth of the company. The firm being considered should have shown quarter over quarter, or at least year over year, growth in sales and market penetration. Lastly, we would suggest looking for a manufacturer who at least has some brand recognition in the industry such as ShoreTel, Avaya, or Cisco. There is less a chance that larger producers such as these will go under than a no name such as Sarasota Fl. based Star 2 Star, Asterisk, or “you-name-the-voip-manufacturer-in-your-town.”
So What do you Do Now When you need a New Phone System ?
First, research the manufacturers that you are considering, confirming that their management believes in them and is investing heavily in R&D and that the company is on a growth path. Second, look into the company who is going to be providing support and installation services for you. Have they been in business for many years? What sort of references can they provide you with? Do they offer more than one product line? Remember, not every manufacturer suits every business. Finally, once you have settled on a manufacturer and re-seller, make sure that you are choosing the correct model phone system for your business. Some manufacturers, such as Avaya, make different systems for companies with differing amounts of employees. Do your research to ensure you are not purchasing a phone system that will be too small in years to come.
For more information, please contact the staff at CSM. We have been in business for more than 30 years so are happy to help you navigate the seas of telecom by choosing an appropriate manufacturer and matching you to a certified tech who will provide professional installation in Tampa, Austin, Sarasota, Naples, Orlando, Mobile & Gulfcoast Mississippi, or anywhere in between!