Impulse Advanced Communications, headquartered in Santa Barbara, Calif., is a communications service provider that is successfully recycling a business model from the Bell System era give the customer a very broad range of service offerings, so that they only have one phone call to make for telecommunications service.
Targeting the growing California market, the 15 year old companys portfolio is impressive, offering Internet access, managed virtual private and MPLS networks, local and long distance telephone service, hosted PBX service, and colocation services.
Over the years, the company has expanded its reach with hubs in San Luis Obispo, Goleta, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles, and established wholesale and interconnection agreements with other Internet, voice, and data service providers, thus giving them a worldwide service footprint.
Impulse borrowed another page from the old Bell System playbook, with a strong focus on customer service. Unlike many of the hosted providers that sell customers a solution via the Web, Impulse takes a hands-on approach to the design and installation process. Their typical customer has 30 or more phones in multiple locations, and is looking for a single-source communications provider with requirements for both voice and data for both local and wide area networks. To address those unique requirements, Impulse typically visits with the prospective customer several times before presenting the design solution and contract, and then returns three more times during the installation process. And it would appear that this attention to detail is working, as Impulse can claim a laundry list of customers including municipalities, banks, hospitals, law firms and technology firms with installations as large as 700 stations.
Impulse focuses on five different service offerings in addition to hosted PBX: Internet access, enhanced Internet access, interoffice connectivity, e-mail and calendar services, and Web hosting.
The Hosted PBX offering is named ClearStar. The service is based on the BroadSoft platform, and features Polycom SIP phones (although any SIP device will work).
The system includes both basic and advanced call management features, and is available with a range of subscription options:
- Basic seats, priced at $25.00 per month, are typically implemented for lobby phones, and include an inbound phone number and extension, plus standard PBX features.
- The Standard account is priced at $45.00 per month, and upgrades to enhanced voicemail, Web portal access, and an Outlook/Web toolbar.
- The Executive account costs $55.00 per month, and adds sequential ringing, simultaneous ringing, softphone access, and the ability to have the account on multiple phones.
- An Auto Attendant account at $35.00 per month can direct calls via hunt groups, extension, or a dial-by-name directory.
- A Voicemail Box, available at $5.00 per month, provides a phone number and extension that rings directly to a voicemail box, which can be checked via phone or e-mail.
- The Fax Box option at $10.00 per month provides an inbound fax number to receive faxes, which are then converted into PDF documents and e-mailed to the user.
- An ACD Call Center Queue is available for $150.00 per month, and includes enhanced features such as agent login, logout, call queuing, call overflow control, and call statistics.
Impulse's `Internet access2 is available in a wide variety of bandwidths, including 1.5 and 7 Mbps DSL, bonded T-1 service at 3-9 Mbps, DS-3 service at 45 Mbps, and metro Ethernet service that can go as high as 1 Gbps.
Enhanced Internet Access service is provided for customers that require redundant paths to the Internet; voice-enhanced quality of service, where voice packets are given priority over data packets; lower latency and lower jitter for improved video transmissions; proactive monitoring with offsite backup router configurations; and/or IPv6 capabilities.
Interoffice connectivity options include Internet virtual private networks (VPNs) which separate secure corporate traffic from general Internet traffic; point-to-point private networks that connect office at DS-1 or DS-3 speeds; and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) networks that prioritize voice, video, and data traffic for optimum delivery.
Email and Collaboration services utilize the Zimbra application, which is touted as an improvement on Microsoft Exchange Server, but hosted in the cloud, thus eliminating the need for the on-premises (and customer-maintained) server.
Web Hosting services include shared, dedicated and managed hosting, plus colocation data centers.
Impulse has also implemented a very innovative customer support model, which includes posting current network status (and any outages) on their Website for all to see. With a few clicks you can determine if their communication and Web services are all up and running, plus any current support issues (complete with frequent updates) that are posted for everyone to see. Letting the world see all of your warts and freckles is truly a gutsy move which also demonstrates the companys confidence in the service that they provide.
Further information on the Impulse solutions can be found at www.impulse.net. Our next tutorial will continue our review of various service providers hosted voice solutions.
Mark A. Miller, P.E. is President of DigiNet Corporation®, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.