Thursday, February 09, 2017

RingCentral Review - Is it worth it?

For the last ten years our phone system in the office has been a typical small office PBX system from Nortel with service from Bell. The problem was the service was never that good. We tried everything to try and boost the volume on calls but nothing worked. It was also awkward and annoying to change any settings.

So after doing research several times over the last few years we decided to go with RingCentral. They advertise on TWiT and other podcasts and seem to stand out from that crowded marketplace as the largest and most reliable with a major presence in Canada.

After using the product for more than a year most of the office is now using the regular features quite fluidly.

Here are some of the growing pains we experienced while switching:

  1. Porting our number over from Bell worked easily enough but did take a week or so.
  2. Plugging the phone in and registering every user was quite simple but we did have major issues getting the phones to display the correct date/time. This turned out to be an issue with Bell.
  3. Bell did not make it easy to connect through their modem/router. We had to disable the router part of the box (put it in bridge mode) and use our additional exterior router (which is what we were using anyway).
  4. The users in our office struggle with any interface changes on machines they use everyday (I understand this is a normal IT problem).
    1. Putting people on hold now is called "Park" and that requires you to memorize a number to dial into any phone to get the call back.
    2. Transfering calls to someone else is a better system however it is different than before so had to be learned through use. It annoys me that when you transfer a call to someone else the CallerID looks like you are calling that person (which you technically are) and so the person just thinks it's an internal office call.
    3. The PolyCom phones we bought are quite basic and only have two lines, In order to set up conference calls you must use the cloud based system and email codes to everyone. On the plus side you can have huge numbers of people in your conference call. This is not to be confused with 'RingCentral Meetings' which is a Zoom or Google Hangouts competitor.
    4. Checking voicemail on the hard phones now requires inputting several menu commands and a password. It just takes too long compared to the preprogrammed buttons we had on the old phones. You will really want to use the desktop or Android app for this but then you need headphones/speakers for your computer.
  5. Most of the really useful features are too hard for some people to learn as they rarely have the chance to practice. You really need one person in to be in charge and set things up and answer questions as required. It really is not plug and play in that everyone will instantly know how to use every feature.
  6. Outgoing CallerID took several tries and many calls to tech support before they finally flicked the right switch to activate it.
  7. Tech support from RingCentral was initially quite good when setting up the system. I had several very helpful people directly in contact with me and helping me with every step. However, once the setup stage was complete I had to start an issue by submitting my problem on the RingCentral help site. This would be fine but they would initially try to help by email which was too slow, then eventually over the phone but only at the lowest level of support. Eventually I would be in contact with Level 2 support which would usually solve my issue.
  8. Incoming Caller ID: This seems to be resolved now but initially they told me we had to upgrade the service to get CallerID. We tried getting around it by syncing all our contacts and the desktop app with our generic office email Outlook. You could do the same with Gmail.
That leads to the biggest issue we have:

Sharing Contacts Company Wide:
We were told that contacts could be shared across the company but it turns out that it can't be done. The RingCentral forums are full of people asking for this feature over the last several years. It seems clear that they have lost business by not adding this feature. If there could be a central location for all contacts to be stored it would save a lot of time because one person could edit a contact and it would be fixed on everyone's account. This should be possible as everything is stored on the RingCentral servers anyway.

We ended up getting around it by linking our generic office email account with all it's contacts to everyone's desktop phone app. Not perfect but it does work.

So, would I recommend RingCentral? Yes but be aware that it isn't as simple as it looks on the website. It also has more features than we will ever use. For instance, they added this app called Glip that seems interesting but will never catch on. I wish they would just focus on fixing the features they already have.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Google Drive vs. Dropbox - Episode 272

With the news that Dropbox is opening up access to it's cloud editing software this week I thought it would be good to revisit my never ending comparison between the two products.

In my ongoing comparisons between Google Drive and Dropbox I've come across a huge win for Google Drive. When two users both have access to a file in Dropbox that file takes up space in both user's accounts. This means that if you are working with someone and they load up a shared folder with little regard for the storage space it takes up you could get locked out of your account and have no option but to delete that shared folder from your account.

That is because Dropbox locks your account (Google probably does the same) when you go over your storage limit. The problem here is you have no control of someone else's files counting against your limit.

In Google Drive the file size only counts towards the owner of that file. So if you share a folder with someone their storage quota will not be affected.

Another great feature of Google Drive is that any Google Docs / Sheets or / Slides files do not even count against your storage quota. I have not tested Dropbox's new cloud software or if it takes up your storage space but given how stingy they are I'm willing to bet that it will.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Google Drive vs. Dropbox - Episode 258

Someone commented on my last post about Google Drive vs Dropbox and said that only Drive requires people to sign in when you send them a link to a folder.  This is untrue.

When I share a dropbox link to someone without a dropbox account and they click on it this is what pops up:

The user can click the 'x' and proceed to click the very useful big blue "Download" button. So it is not true that Dropbox requires you to log in (I never claimed that) but it does ask if you want to sign up which is still annoying for non-dropbox users. It gives the illusion that they have to sign up in order to get the files.

However, when I share a Google Drive link to a folder and someone without a Google account clicks on it this is what they see:

There is no requirement to sign in which is great. But you will note, however, that there is still no clear way for people to download the files from the Drive folder. All people see is the big blue "Sign In" button. This button ends up doing the same thing that Dropbox does. It insinuates that the user must Sign in to do anything with those files. They do not realize that they can click on each file individually and click an obscure looking download button to download each file at a time.  

This is what it looks like when a user clicks on a file:

The interface is nice and it actually works great. The usability is far nicer and slicker than Dropbox but the lack of a "Download All" button for people who are not signed in is a real problem. This is the problem I covered in my previous Drive vs Dropbox post.

It really needs to be addressed though.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Google Drive shows Google+ Photos: It's 3/4 Baked

While I'm on the topic of Google Drive, they announced that your Google+ photos will now appear in your Google Drive (the Verge). This is one thing I've been waiting a long time for. However there is a catch.... really it is just copying the photos to a new location. They aren't the same file. 

This means that if you edit a file in the new drive folder it will sync between the web and your drive folder on your hard drive BUT it will not sync to the Google+ album.

This is what it looks like:
I took some pics on my phone and they uploaded to G+ Photos. I check in Drive and see the Google Photos folder. Yay they are in there.

Then it asks me if I want to link Google Photos to my Drive so I say "Sure". Then it copies them to my Drive folder and they sync to my computer! - I'm getting excited.

I edit one of the photos on my hard drive and save it. Then check Drive online and the saved photo was eventually synced. Okay....

Now I check Google+ for the same photos. 

Nope the edit was not made. So that confirms that the file is different and when pictures get added to Drive from Google+ and added to  Google+ from Drive (another feature they added last year) it is really just making a copy of the same picture.

So yeah it is half-baked at this point, maybe 3/4 baked but not done.

If they did sync the same photo everywhere then you could have your edited albums synced to G+ and show up on the Chromecast and be backed up on Drive.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Google Drive vs. Dropbox - Episode 237

Over the past year of using both Dropbox and Google Drive to send files and folders to clients and consultants we work with I've encountered some strange things.

Usually it's someone who can't comprehend the fact that the file isn't in the email and subsequently has problems with clicking on the link and not understanding that they have to download the file.

I think both Drive and Dropbox ask people to sign in when they click a shared link which is annoying and unnecessary. But where Dropbox has the edge is when you go to download you can either save the files to your personal dropbox or download the files as a zip file.

They give you the choice! Imagine that!

But Google Drive just says "Open in Drive" which completely confuses people who don't use or have never heard of Drive.  There should be another blue button beside it that says "Download".

So the only way to download multiple files is to go into each file and click the download button. This can take forever if there are several files.

They have to slowly ease people into this new world order of cloud storage rather than force them to learn how cumbersome it can be.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sperry Software: Attachment Save

My office uses email a lot and we push it to it's limits. Much to my chagrin my coworkers and other offices continue to insist on sending emails of drawings, products, photos etc. all of which are large attachments.

In the early years this would have been less of an issue if we used Google Apps as the file size limits and the inbox limits are much larger. However because of legacy and systems (too long to get into) we are still using Microsoft and Outlook. Recently we switched to Office 365 which was an experience in itself (read about that here) and I thought these issues would basically go away. They say that your inbox can be 50GB so I figured this would be huge. No longer would we have to worry about large attachments, at least not for several years, when I assume that limit will go up.

BUT I was in for a surprise when Microsoft Tech Support told me that Outlook doesn't like to sync more than 3-4 GB onto your computer from the cloud. So it was back to our old way of doing things.

We have used Sperry Software's Attachment Save Outlook add-in for years and it has always worked with the various versions of Outlook that we installed. So I installed it on Outlook 2013 and it seemed to work perfectly. But I discovered a bug where you can lose all the text from an email.

Steps to recreate issue:
1. Click ‘reply’ to an email in our inbox (or presumably anywhere in outlook)
2. then start typing up a reply.
3. Close the reply but save the draft
4. Delete/Discard the draft
5. Go back to original email in inbox and the body and subject text has disappeared. Any attachment will still be there.

Windows Version: Microsoft Windows 8.1
Outlook Version:
Engine Version: 5.1.5250.14242 (32-bit)
Language: English

The Sperry add-in is causing a bug that deletes all the text from an email if you view the draft it deletes all the text from the email.

This is a major problem for us as emails are legal records of decisions made and we are required by law to keep them on file for 7 years.

I have since started a bug report with Sperry and they say they are looking into it which is nice but it's been a couple months and I haven't seen any progress. 

I could try another add-in as there are several that do the same thing (here is a list). But that would mean training everyone and buying another product. They say they are working on a fix but we are getting desperate. Losing emails is bad for business.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

WARNING: Canadians Renting Cars with Expedia & Hertz

Recently we went to Grand Cayman and had a great time. However the rental car experience was not so great.

The car we rented was clearly the cheapest car on the island but that wasn't the issue.  The issue was we reserved the car on which gave us the final cost in CAD. So that was what we expected to pay.

One unexpected surprise is that Hertz (and probably most companies on the island) make you pay a $20 USD licence to be allowed to drive. They say it is a government fee but it was not on any documention that Expedia sent us.

But the bigger surprise came when upon returning the car to Hertz they charged us in USD instead of CAD. So because of the exchange rate on our credit card and the extra licence the cost of the rental car went from $270 CAD to $340 CAD.

So I called Expedia and after sitting on hold and talking to a rep for almost 2 hours they told me that they could not refund me. It would have to be Hertz since they are the ones who charged me. So he said they would talk to Hertz for me and gave me an expedia email address to send my documentation to.

So I crafted an email and included the Expedia quote and the Hertz bill. The next week I get an email saying that this email does not support Canadians and and they gave me a 1-800 number to call which matched the original number that I called.

Apparently I am stuck in a vortex of corporate game of "screw the customer"

Needless to say I will never reserve a car on Expedia again. I think it is unethical that they can give you a quote and then completely change it when you show up to pay.