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General VoIP Questions
What is VoIP?
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is a term used to describe a group of technologies that are used to connect and deliver voice telephone calls over the Internet. VoIP telephones can communicate with conventional telephones, and vice-versa. The advantages of VoIP over traditional telephone systems include reduced equipment cost, reduced phone service cost, an expansive feature set, and the ability to integrate your phone with other computing devices.
Traditional phone calls are made over dedicated telephone circuits; VoIP calls are carried over the Internet. VoIP calls share a data network with other computing devices. When you place a VoIP call, your speech is digitized at the originating end transmitted as small bundles of data (called "packets") over the data network and Internet. At the receiving end, the packets are reassembled into an audio signal.
When properly engineered and executed, VoIP call quality is at least as good as or better than a traditional phone call. However, if the segments of a call are delayed or lost, as can easily happen on a data network, then call quality can suffer. The Star2Star architecture eliminates this risk with its end-to-end approach that controls both ends of the call path, including automatic prioritization for voice packets over data packets.
How is Star2Star different from other VoIP Solutions?
Star2Star has created the first fully integrated, end-to-end Business Grade VoIP solution. Our solution combines purpose-built hardware, custom engineered 24/7 monitoring and management, and six dedicated network operations centers. The results are powerful features, superior call quality, unmatched reliability and dramatic savings.
Other business-oriented VoIP vendors typically just offer one part of this complete solution. Some specialize in the on-premise phone switch solutions which provided call routing and features like voicemail but leave locating connectivity and VoIP telephone service up to you. Others offer telephone service but no on-premise solution; this approach limits flexibility, functionality, and reliability. Almost none offer any form of monitoring and management; once the system is set up, the assumption is that it will just run with no problems.
Star2Star is different. The Star2Star system uses a proprietary on-premise StarBox® Voice Optimized SD-WAN. This solid-state device has no moving parts, no hard drive, and no fan for the utmost in reliability. The Star2Star StarBox® Voice Optimized SD-WAN gathers information about the phone system and network that the system uses to prioritize phone calls while minimizing impact on regular data traffic.
Calls are connected to a private network of carrier-class telephone lines or carried long distance by Level3 Communications. At every point, our StarWatch service monitors nearly 1000 operational parameters in the hardware, data network, routing systems and carrier infrastructure to assure uptime and call quality.
Star2Star is the first and ONLY solution to fully integrate the hardware, phone service, and active monitoring and management. That's what makes us different.
How is the voice quality?
Generally, with any properly installed business-oriented VoIP solution, you will experience call quality equal to or better than a traditional phone call. However, VoIP call quality can easily be affected by network congestion and delays. Most VoIP solutions have no answer for this problem.
The StarWatch service from Star2Star measures the quality of the network and adjusts call parameters to assure the best possible quality. In addition, StarWatch can detect a degrading local area or wide area (Internet) connection and alert you to this problem along with recommended solutions. Star2Star's unique integrated combination of proprietary hardware, monitoring, and central routing service means we do the best possible job of assuring call quality and reliability for our customers.
Can I keep my current phone numbers?
Yes, except for only a few limited cases. Local Number Portability makes it possible to port your number(s) to a new service provider of your choice. We have a staff of number porting experts who usually can get this complex task accomplished typically within 10-15 business days. More complex orders may take a little longer or are assigned as a project which can take up to 30 days.
Can I do a side-by-side comparison?
We offer a thirty-day risk-free guarantee. Your new Star2Star phones can operate alongside your existing system during this period. Your calls come in on your old phone system while you make outgoing calls on the Star2Star system to test quality and reliability. During this period, all domestic calls made on the Star2Star system are free. Once your phone number is ported you can begin to use your new Star2Star system for all your calls, incoming and outgoing.
Is emergency 911 provided?
Yes. 911 dialing is included (enhanced 911 is also optionally available) as is registration with the 911 database. Plus, thanks to Star2Star's failover feature, 911 dialing will function during a power or Internet outage.
Is Star2Star different from residential VoIP services?
Residential VoIP uses some of the same technology as business VoIP, but residential products don't offer the quality, features, and reliability that businesses demand. As a result, many people associate VoIP with systems that lack in capability and quality.
However, the very first business VoIP installations were deployed at some of the world's largest companies on their large enterprise networks. Quality on those systems exceeded that of the legacy phone system with a corresponding increase in feature set and capability. Though powerful, these systems were also incredibly expensive and best suited for very large companies with multiple, worldwide operations.
Our end-to-end solution combines the in-house, high-quality systems that big businesses have used for years along with a powerful set of features and the best phones available for Internet calling. The result is an offering entirely different than that provided by residential providers.
Do I need to cancel my current phone service provider?
Initially, the Star2Star Phone System can be installed without canceling your current service. Normally, you will "port" your existing phone number(s) to your new Star2Star system. This takes about 10-15 business days. Once this happens (you'll know because your old phones will stop ringing and your new Star2Star phones will start ringing) you can cancel your existing phone service. Handled this way, you will not experience any interruption in phone service. We suggest that you retain a single analog line for FAX, burglar alarm (if used), Point-of-sale device (if used), and as a backup line should your Internet service ever be interrupted.
How reliable is this phone service?
At Star2Star, we are completely focused on providing the highest quality and most reliable Internet phone solution in the world. That sounds like a marketing slogan but there are real substantive reasons why we believe we have succeeded in building a solution that -- for all practical purposes -- is actually more reliable than the traditional phone system. Star2Star is the first and only VoIP solution provider that can offer this complete end-to-end approach. We guarantee 99.999% uptime and have seen 100% uptime since 2011.
How does the Star2Star monitoring system work?
The Star2Star monitoring system, StarWatch, looks at all aspects of the system, from the phones, to the local network (LAN) to the on-premise StarBox® Voice Optimized SD-WAN to the Internet (WAN) to the Network Operations Center (NOC) and all of its servers and connections, through the local connections or long-haul carriage network. It monitors failure states and trends, and, it alerts interested parties of problems or potential problems if necessary. For critical events, it may also automatically initiate remedial solutions.
For example, suppose the Internet connection to one of your offices is cut. The monitoring system will note this almost immediately, activate the backup StarBox® Voice Optimized SD-WAN at our operations center, and automatically reroute calls from the StarBox® Voice Optimized SD-WAN at the affected office to the supplementary phones (usually a cell phone) for each of the company's users. All other applications such as automated attendant, voicemail, etc. will continue to operate without interruption. Customers calling in will not notice any change.
The StarBox® Voice Optimized SD-WAN at the office can detect an Internet failure as well and can route all outbound calls to be made on the analog backup line. Simultaneously, the Star2Star notification system will place an automated call to the company's administrative contact (using their supplementary phone number), alerting him or her to the Internet connection outage along with suggested remedies. In most cases, the administrator will find out about the Internet outage well before employees start to complain that their web browsers and email are not working. This is only one example. The StarWatch monitoring system watches nearly 1000 different parameters and has hundreds of response states.
What backup provisions are in place?
Star2Star provides a complete and automatic disaster recovery system with your phone service. This capability is provided in our Network Operations Centers (NOCs) where we operate our core infrastructure. Our data centers are located in secure facilities, with redundant power sources and Internet connections.
In the extremely unlikely event that anything would ever happen at all six data centers that cause them to become non-operational, the StarBox® Voice Optimized SD-WAN (the Star2Star Phone System) at each customer site will automatically switch over and utilize other carriers and the on-premise analog connection to maintain the ability to send and receive calls.
If anything were to ever happen at your office to compromise the Internet connection (such as a lengthy power failure or a natural disaster) we will mimic your phone system in our data center and reroute calls to a backup phone line or even to the cell phone of each employee when their extension is dialed.
How are toll-free numbers handled?
Star2Star handles 800 (toll-free) numbers the same way as traditional phone systems. If you have an existing toll-free number we can port it to Star2Star. If you do not have a toll-free number but want to obtain one, we can provision a new toll-free number for you. There is a charge of $.03/minute (above the normal Star2Star line charge) for using the toll-free number on inbound calls. Star2star can add your toll-free number to the national toll-free directory.
What are my savings likely to be?
Star2Star saves you money in several obvious and a few not-so-obvious ways.
First, most organizations see a dramatic drop in their monthly phone costs; many businesses cut their monthly phone bill in half. For customers who pay extra for services such as central office voicemail or for those who make lots of long distance or international calls, the savings can be tremendous.
Second, a Star2Star telephone system costs a fraction of what you would pay for a traditional business communications solution. Since the Star2Star system can support hundreds of phones at a single location, and you can add phones one at a time as you grow, you never are forced to buy "too much" just to accommodate potential growth plans.
Third, Star2Star has tremendous multi-location features. Your system can be configured so that it operates as a single, unified phone system, no matter how many locations your business has. Individual work-at-home employees can have a phone at their home that operates just like the phones in the office, so your remote offices and remote employees are now available via local extensions. Flexibility like this can result in tremendous cost savings.
The bottom line is that for most companies, we can install a new Star2Star phone system, including lease payments and phone service, for a monthly cost at or below what the company currently pays for traditional phone service alone.
What are long distance calling costs?
We offer flexible packages starting with our basic package that includes 600 minutes LD and can scale up to unlimited.
What features does Star2Star offer?
The Star2Star system has hundreds of features specifically designed for businesses of all sizes. The actual feature list is far too extensive to include here. There's an entire section of the website devoted to the features and benefits of the Star2Star Solution.
How are multiple locations and remote employees supported?
With Star2Star, every office and even single phone home office locations can exist on the same phone network. Each separate office is assigned a 2 digit ID. Each office can have up to 700 3-digit extensions. To make a call within an office, just dial the 3-digit extension (i.e., "102"). To make a call between offices just dial the office id and the extension (i.e., "20102"). Individual users can have a phone at home or at a single person office that works just it was on the desk at one of the main offices. It all works seamlessly. We are currently working on developing a more flexible dial plan that will allow for different numbers of digits in location codes and extensions.
Our company has many locations, but we only want to publish a single phone number. Can you do this?
Yes, Star2Star's solution lets you decide how your company will present itself to customers. For example, some companies operating with multiple locations want to publish a single phone number to reduce confusion for customers. Star2Star can route incoming calls on a single number to ring any (or all) extensions at any (or all) locations. Alternately, the incoming call can be set to ring extensions in succession, or the incoming call can be set to play an automated attendant menu that allows incoming callers to select their call routing. Setting up a call configuration is simple and something your Star2Star dealer can do for you or you can do yourself via our simple web browser interface.
Can I publish local phone numbers in cities where I do business even if I don't have an office there?
Yes, you may select as many phone numbers as you like from nearly everywhere in the US and have each of these numbers route however you like. Callers can be routed to separate automated attendants based on city or a single, consolidated, message can be played, or calls from each city can be routed to ring the phones of city specialists.
We have lots of highly mobile employees. Do you support that?
Yes, Star2Star features advanced call-forwarding features that allow scheduling. It also includes a Find Me - Follow Me option where you can select to have your office line ring as many offices as you have and even your cell phone, home phone, or a computer softphone simultaneously. You can configure all of this to happen on a particular schedule and select for the call to try one phone at a time, all at once, or give the caller the option to automatically forward the call via your voicemail message.
Can a single user have multiple extensions?
Yes, any user can have multiple extension numbers assigned to one or more desk phones, remote phones at home offices, and PC or Mac softphones. All of the user's extensions can ring at once, or they can be programmed to ring in a predefined order.
Does Star2Star include automated attendant, ring groups, and queues?
Yes, and more. You can create multi-layer automated attendant menus and create ring groups, customer service queues, and paging groups. You can even customize your music on hold. Extensions can be customized to allow or prohibit certain activities such as international calling or outbound calls. Users can also log into their designated portal and set up their own speed dial, call forwarding, Find Me/Follow Me paths, voicemail options, call blocking, and an "operator" designation if they are unavailable to answer a call. Plus, an up-to-date company directory is always just a click away.
I have several small locations, and I would like to consolidate my telephone reception between them. Can I do this?
Yes. Star2Star lets you treat all your locations as one group of extensions. Any and all incoming lines can route to a receptionist (or queue of receptionists) operating from a single location. These receptionists can hold and direct calls for all locations.
Are there any limitations on voicemail?
No limitations. With Star2Star, you can set up voicemail for all users. You can even set up voicemail for "virtual" users; this feature is useful for calls that are intended for a departmental group but are never answered. Finally, Star2Star also offers voicemail groups. Voicemail groups are used to send a single voice message to a group of extensions. It's great for departmental or company-wide announcements.
Can I do conference calling with Star2Star?
Yes. Star2Star supports two methods of conference calling. The ad-hoc method lets you conference in two other callers directly from your phone. The "meet me" conferencing method allows an unlimited amount of callers to dial a phone number and be placed into a conference together. Star2Star is also developing an additional conference method that will give users even more control over conferencing options.
Do I need to install new wiring?
You do not need to add any new wiring if you have an existing computer network with a PC network jack nearby each phone. Our phones have two-port network switches built into them. Plug the phone into the existing Ethernet wall jack, and connect a patch cord (supplied) between the phone and computer. The computer and phone share the Ethernet connection, so there's no need to run more wiring or add another wall jack.
Our phones use Virtual LAN (VLAN) technology to keep voice and computer data separate, even though they are sharing the same physical cable.
I only have old-style telephone cabling. Can I use Star2Star?
If you only have older-style (2- or 3-pair telephone or 4-pair CAT3) wiring and do not have a computer network in the areas where you want to install VoIP phones, there are two choices:
- Our dealer can install new CAT5 computer wiring at those locations. In most buildings, this is a relatively small expense.
- We can use the existing wiring and analog phones and connect VoIP to them in your wiring closet. This solution works well but is less convenient and only slightly less expensive than upgrading to a full VoIP solution in most instances.
What equipment is needed?
The following equipment is required for a typical Star2Star installation. Usually, much of this equipment already exists at the installation location and can be reused:
- High-Speed Internet Connection: You will need a high-speed Internet connection, which can be a business grade DSL connection, cable modem, or T1 line. If you do not have a connection, we can help coordinate getting one for you.
- StarBox® Voice Optimized SD-WAN: Office deployment of the Star2Star Internet Phone System requires a StarBox® Voice Optimized SD-WAN, which is Star2Star's high-powered phone system and Internet router.
- VoIP Phones: We offer phones from top-tier IP phone manufacturers, including Cisco, Polycom®, and Yealink. See the "phones" page on our website for a list of our current telephone offerings. You can also use standard analog phones through an adapter.
- Router: You probably already have an Internet router and, most likely, the StarBox® Voice Optimized SD-WAN will simply plug into it. In most cases, the StarBox® Voice Optimized SD-WAN provides excellent router functionality on its own.
- Network Switch with QoS, POE, and SNMP: If you have several computers hooked up to a network in your office, then you probably have one or more switches. All switches will work with our solution, but to obtain the best call quality, we recommend that you use switches that include VLAN (virtual LAN), Quality of Service (QoS), and Power over Ethernet (PoE). This latter feature allows telephones to obtain power from the Ethernet switch, so they don't require a separate power cord. Your Star2Star sales consultant and local dealer are fully trained on this equipment and can advise you accordingly.
Do you support computer softphones?
Yes, and the softphone can be configured to ring at the same time as your office phone, home phone, and cell phone so no matter where you are, the caller will find you.
Do I need to buy a dedicated computer to run this service?
No. Star2Star provides the phone system, phones, and networking components needed to run the service. We do not require any computers from the customer.
Do your phones provide and intercom capability?
Yes. Any phone can place an intercom call to any other, including phones at separate locations.
Do your phones provide paging?
Yes. Any phone can page to any other phone or to a group of phones. We also offer an inexpensive paging adapter that can connect to existing overhead or outdoor paging systems.
Can I use my existing analog phones?
Yes. Your Star2Star dealer can install adaptors that connect traditional analog phones into the Star2Star system. This alternative is only slightly less expensive than purchasing new, dedicated VoIP phones. Also, analog phones do not have the digital display and dedicated feature keys found on almost all VoIP phones, so they are less convenient to use. Unless rewiring presents a substantial problem, we generally recommend obtaining new VoIP phones. Star2Star customers can usually lease the new equipment while still adding dollars to their bottom line thanks to affordable equipment pricing and considerable telephone service savings.
Can I use my existing PBX?
Yes. Some customers like their existing phone system but wish to take advantage of reduced monthly phone charges and the enhanced feature set of Star2Star. We can adapt your existing phones and phone system to VoIP and avoid installing new phones. You will obtain all the monthly service cost savings with no changes in how your existing phone system operates. Since this "port replacement" functionality uses a standard StarBox® Voice Optimized SD-WAN, this means that as you grow, you can simply add VoIP phones as necessary, without the need to purchase additional legacy equipment.
What telephone options are available?
We have three major types of phone options:
- The latest in VoIP phone hardware - See our Phones Page for a list of the phones we currently carry. We offer the most modern phones from top-tier manufacturers such as Cisco, Polycom®, and Yealink.
- Analog Phone Interface Conversion - With an additional hardware adaptor, we can connect any existing analog phone (including most cordless phones) into the Star2Star system.
- A computer-based Softphone and mobile client. Versions are available for Windows and Macintosh-based computers and for both iOS and Android.
Internet and Network
Do I need to change my Internet provider?
In most cases, you can use your existing provider. However, Star2Star can be your complete solution provider for telecommunications equipment and service, which can include Internet service.
What are the bandwidth requirements?
We recommend a business broadband (DSL, fiber, or cable) connection running with at least 768k of upstream bandwidth. On a properly configured connection like this, your system will support 25-30 simultaneous phone calls. In a typical business environment, this is adequate to support between 75-100 phones. Star2Star also supports higher bandwidth connections. As a general rule, call capacity will increase proportionally with bandwidth.
Do I need to rewire my building to use this service?
No. The Star2Star solution uses your existing Ethernet network wiring already, and it shares the connection with a computer without the need for any additional wiring. If you require a phone at a location where there is no network wiring in place, your Star2Star dealer can install it at a reasonable price.
Installation and Service
Who installs Star2Star?
Star2Star has a network of certified and trained dealers and installers that guide you through the entire process. Our dealers will consult with you to determine your equipment and connectivity needs and to configure system operation. Once your equipment arrives and is connected, it will automatically be configured with your specific configuration.
Our dealers and installers generally need only a few hours on site to complete the installation. If you want to reconfigure your settings after installation is complete, simply visit the Star2Star portal site, and your system will automatically be updated. Unlike most companies, there's no requirement to bring your dealer back on-site to make configuration changes.
Is training provided?
Yes. Your Star2Star dealer will offer initial training and answer any questions you have. Star2Star offers additional resources through its website, including written documentation and recorded online instructional materials. Contact your dealer or Star2Star technical support service (available 24/7) at 941-234-0001 or by dialing "Star2Star" (e.g., *2*) on any Star2Star phone.
Are system upgrades automatic?
Yes. We issue automatic software updates, including security enhancements. These are automatically installed over the Internet.
How does support interaction occur?
Star2Star phone systems and data center components are monitored around the clock. All aspects of the Star2Star network are monitored remotely by our StarWatch quality and health monitoring system. Any problem relating to the connectivity, quality of service, or operational health of your phone system, network, Internet connection, or calling path are immediately detected and reported to the Network Operation Staff and our engineering team for follow-up.
If StarWatch detects a problem, it sets off a chain of events to report and repair the issue. First, the problem is categorized. Critical events, those which affect the functioning of a customer's entire system, are escalated to priority 1 status and are immediately handled by a service engineer. The StarWatch system also immediately contacts the administrator at the customer's location to advise of the problem and the steps being taken to resolve it.
In many cases, less critical problems can be resolved without any human intervention since we have built hundreds of self-healing and redundant features into our infrastructure to make many issues self-correcting.
Star2Star also staffs an around-the-clock service desk to handle customer reported problems. Customers may access our service desk directly over the Internet or by calling our support line 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year or by email. You can also dial Star2Star ("*2*") on your phone's keypad.
This automated monitoring and service desk operation allows us to maintain a high level of quality and reliability. Typically, we can solve most problems remotely, but your local dealer/installer is always apprised of any issues related to your site and is dispatched by our service desk to solve problems that cannot be solved over the Internet.
How does your "Immediate Replacement Plan" work?
Star2Star's Immediate Replacement Plan goes beyond simple maintenance agreements. If anything ever goes wrong with any Star2Star-provided equipment, Star2Star's dealers are authorized to replace the hardware that same day from stock. Star2Star dealers generally carry replacement equipment, but if a replacement is not available, we will overnight a new StarBox® Voice Optimized SD-WAN to you. Star2Star automatically backs up all configuration information, so when your replacement equipment arrives it will retrieve the specific settings and configurations (including voicemail) you had before the problem arose. Star2Star customers who obtain the Immediate Replacement Plan also automatically receive all system upgrades, including access to all new features of the Star2Star solution.