Jive Hosted VoIP is an easy-to-use hosted voice-over-IP system for small businesses. The premise is simple. Plug in the phones to the Internet, configure the system via a Web portal, and voilà! your full-blown VoIP system is up and running. Jive offers SMBs all the basic calling features along with a few advanced options, such as conference numbers and virtual fax services—all in an easy-to-use package.
Traditionally, IP PBX systems were on-premise products, with an on-site appliance—or software that needs to be installed onto a dedicated server. Jive offers businesses an alternative: why bother with an appliance when you can go to the cloud? Jive offers IP PBX as a service; administrators just need to register for an account and configure the features they need.
When it comes to pricing, Jive offers five tiers, depending on the number of users on the system. Tier 1, at $29.95 per user per month, is for organizations with one to four users. Tier 2, for five to nine users, costs $25.95 per user per month. Tier 3 is $23.95 per user per month for 10 to 24 users, and Tier 4 is $21.95 per user per month for 25 to 49 users. Organizations with more than 50 users are in Tier 5, at $19.95 per user per month. Each plan offers unlimited calling minutes, necessary toll-free and local numbers, and an online fax service.
Getting Started is a Snap
Registration for Jive Communications is quick, and the company works closely with potential customers to get them set up and started. After signing up, I got the relevant paperwork via email, including a request to port over an existing phone number, add new numbers, and a quote sheet with complete payment information. Once my account was up and running, I received a fulfillment notice from Jive with the relevant information.
I could transfer an existing phone number, request a toll-free number, and request individual numbers for each user. Once the account is active, I could create extensions, assign groups, define call queues, set up call attendant, and a whole lot of other things, on the Web interface even if I hadn’t set up the phones yet. The auto-attendant is the automated message customers hear when they first call the company number, and then I created rules for call forwarding, voice mail storage, call routing, and call blocking, among others.
Once the system was ready, I was encouraged to schedule a “setup” call with Jive’s support team. This is part user training and tech support, and at first I was inclined to skip it altogether. I’m glad I went through the process, though, because Jive’s on-boarding process is very thorough. We talked about different user case scenarios and types of features I should consider, given my environment. The support staff was knowledgeable, and customers who are coming on board with limited telephony expertise will appreciate the time Jive dedicates to teaching about its system. Even fairly savvy administrators will find the process helpful as they tweak new calling rules during this process.
Like RingCentral, Jive offers phones that have the proper software already installed, making it a matter of just plugging it in, letting the cloud service detect the IP address, and assigning the rest of the configuration settings on the phone. I tried using phones I already had to see how that process worked, and discovered that the phones I had were too old to be supported. The interface for this bit of setup is very straightforward, as I just had to find the model in a drop down box, and then associate it with an extension I had already created. The system would have taken care of the rest. Jive’s support team also provided me with very detailed step-by-step instructions for specific brands so that there is no guesswork for the user.
The amount of Web tutorials, PDF cheat-sheets, videos, and the reference documentation available as a Wiki can be a little overwhelming, but there really is an answer to every question the user may have.
As with RingCentral, businesses who are switching to hosted PBX from other services or from an on-premise platform should just go with the pre-configured phones directly from the company. While it’s possible to go through the interface and set up (supported) devices manually for each user, it would get tedious pretty quickly when the system could be doing all of this automatically. Just toss the older phones on eBay or recycle them and buy the pre-configured phones.
The Administrator Interface
The interface is well-designed and responsive, but it looks a little dated compared to RingCentral and other Web-based properties. The pages are not dynamic, so you need to refresh the page manually or switch to a different section and come back to see new values or changes. Considering how easy it was to get around the site, it’s a minor quibble, but one that makes it look different from other services.
The interface’s URL has the actual company name included, which is a nice personalized touch.
There were three tabs on my interface—Home, Reports, and Admin. Home appears be just a list of all the objects in the system, such as individual extensions as well as all the calling groups I’ve created. I can just call those extensions from here. Basic users would see only the Home tab. For administrators, the Report dashboard provides a wealth of information, such as total amount of minutes used and number of calls made. I could also drill down to look at activity by phone number or extension, and even compare call volumes by day. It’s also a matter of simply clicking on the extension to view or download the full call logs, complete with numbers called and duration of each call. While there are a ton of reports available, there wasn’t a way to modify the graphs on the dashboard to customize that view.
All the actual configuration options are under the Admin tab. I could create users first, and then assign available devices. I could use the “Combo Wizard” which would allow me to enter the phone information and associated it with a new user all at once, but the general process was to create all the users, and then later go and assign the devices. The fact that the page didn’t refresh or change in any way really made it tricky to tell when I had hit Save and when I hadn’t. It was easy to forget I hadn’t hit save and go to a different part of the interface and lose my settings.
Jive Hosted PBX allowed me to set up call rules such as ringing all the phones in a group simultaneously, or setting up a hierarchy to sequentially ring different numbers until someone finally picked up. I was able to have my personal cell phone ring if someone called the correct extension.
I wasn’t wild about the fact that if I wanted to enable call recording, I have to set up a separate storage space. As of this time, Jive requires businesses to set up an Amazon Secure Simple Storage (S3) account and provide the Amazon Web Services access code in order to set up remote storage. All calls using Call Recording will be stored in the Amazon cloud account. I can see why Jive is staying out of the storage business, but this feature is very limited at this point, and call recording is a fairly basic feature.
I found it really easy to create call-routing rules, and that is the strongest aspect of the management portal. Jive decided to go with a much more visual mapping tool, where users drag and drop boxes (representing users and extensions) on the rules-creation page. By connecting boxes with arrows and adding priority rules, it follows a very intuitive process. The mapping tool is very similar to what an administrator may do in the physical realm. In a discussion trying to figure out what path the call escalation may take, the administrator can easily draw the boxes and map it out on the whiteboard; Jive offers that in its calling rules engine.
Jive also offers pretty detailed access control tools, such as restricting what users can record new voice prompts, accessing the administrator portal, restrict users who can make certain types of calls (no international calls, for example), how to login to the voicemail, and be able to provision new devices on the network. There is also an “eavesdropping” feature, in which certain users can listen in on calls silently while they are in progress.
While Jive Hosted PBX can scale up to larger SMBs, but considering that every single user has to be set up one at a time, it’s a little surprising there are no bulk user management tools. I wouldn’t mind using the interface to setup 10 or 15 users, by the time I get up to 20, it is going to be time-consuming. I would be nice to have tools that will allow administrators to apply changes to groups of users and handle larger number of users at once. A good workaround, though, is having all the rules tied to the call group, and just manually add and drop users to the group.
Call auto-attendant, or virtual receptionist, company directory, and directory trees are more or less standard in all PBX offerings. I could upload music of my choice to play as the hold music.
Jive Hosted PBX had a “Find Me/Follow Me” feature where the calls could be routed to mobile devices or other external numbers; call groups where a group of phones all ring at the same time; call escalation, where if a user doesn’t answer, the system calls the next person on the list and goes up the chain of command; and call queues, where callers wait for “the next available representative” to be available. Jive required extra steps to set up call recording, and some other advanced features present in Ring Central were missing.
Does it Jive?
Whether the SMB is setting up a VoIP platform for the first time or starting over and getting rid of the on-premise system, it’s worth taking the time to evaluate a hosted platform before buying. Jive Hosted PBX is extremely easy to get started with, and offers administrators a selection of advanced features to enhance its rock-solid basic feature set.
There are other cloud-based VoIP systems out there, and they have similar setup processes and excellent support. Since they are all so close in terms of what they offer, the differences often boil down to what would otherwise be considered minor things. I liked Jive Hosted PBX a lot, especially its graphical interface for mapping out call rules. The platform earns every bit of its four stars, but I felt that it suffered slightly being the next product to be reviewed after the feature-heavy Ring Central, our Editors’ Choice for hosted PBX platforms.
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|Tech Support||"Implementation advisors" and 24/7 free customer support.|
|Number of additonal handsets system can support||unlimited|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc