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Memorial Day Minicast

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Ok, so it's Memorial Day here in the US...so, like everyone else, we honor those in the Armed Forces by taking a vacation (how lame is that?)

This episode was originally going to be a simple "we're not having an episode" announcement, but we turned it into a little bit more with some help from our friends.

In this Geeks and God minicast we first apologize for the abandoned Skypcast last weekend, and then we tell you about Drupal For Churches. We then address a question from a listener about Podcast Audio Quality (and Skype). Finally, we hand the reins over to John Wilkerson from the Jesus Geek podcast and he offers great insight on VoIP systems and power, why open source may not be cheaper for you, and gives a little info on projectors.

And, of course, what would be a holiday without a little treat? We end the episode with a special gift from our tuba to yours....

John's comments

Just a few comments on John's audio....

On the VoIP front, I was surprised that this was mentioned. Here are a few reasons. One, in the case of a power outage who doesn't have a cellphone available? Second, I don't know of any office phones these days that don't require power of some sort. That power might come from the main phone switch or each phone is plugged into the wall. Even if you go to your local office supply store for a multi-line office phone it will require power in most cases.

Second, a VoIP system can handle power outages using a UPS for the server just as any other phone switch, but there is one other consideration. That is power to the phones. The best way is with POE (power over ethernet). While this is not a inexpensive solution it does provide for a phone system that can be backed up in the same way as a business phone system. A small UPS for a few important phones would work as well as they don't draw much power.

And lastly if incoming calls are important, most VoIP providers will forward the calls if the system is down to another number. It might be an added fee, but with every ministry purchase you have to weigh the need/requirement vs the cost.

Concerning open source, we can't just lump all projects together. You have to look at it on a project by project basis. If your church puts up a Drupal site and then the volunteer leaves, you have an online support community that is strong. If no one else is up to speed with Drupal, find another volunteer that is a web developer and ask him to leverage the community to help support the application. Even if you have to hire a consultant for support a year or two after the site has been running it would still be very cost effective. It just depends on the application.

Rick Russell
http://www.sugarcreek.net

Good Back And Forth

Hey Rick...
Good comments here...It's great to see some back and forth on these issues...it's a great way to weigh pros and cons of these solutions. I think Johns comments were good, and yours are a good counterpoint.
Thanks for taking part....

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.bobchristenson.com

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mustardseedmedia.com

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Rick,

You bring up an interesting point on the open source bit. On the next cast I'll address your comments and we can discuss this issue as a whole.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Rick,

Rick,

Just getting caught up on the comments here.

Good points on VOIP. However, when we have massive power outages for days in this area (which happens a lot in the Northeast due to ice damage), sometimes even cell phones cannot be used because there is no power going to the cell towers. The only phones that worked were POTS and many modern facilities don't have them anymore. I guess it depends upon where in the country you're located and the frequency of week-long power outages.

With regard to open source projects, I'm not lumping them all together. I'm generalizing which is problematic. There have been ROI studies done on open source software and the results are mixed. Sometimes it's cheaper and other times it's not.

That being said, it's up to the staff at a church to decide what's best for them. People shouldn't just choose an open source solution because it's "free".

John
--
Jesus Geek: A Christian technology podcast
http://www.jesusgeek.info

Jesus Geek: Technology, news and how-to's for the connected Christian
http://www.jesusgeek.info
geek@jesusgeek.info
Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/theOJG

Right tool for right job

I have to agree that open source isn't always the way to go. For example, Rob uses photoshop because it's what works the best. The best way to choose something is to look at what it does and how it does what it does while comparing it to your needs.

Now, we do have to be careful of those studies. Some of the most highly touted studies to show that open source isn't as cost effective were financed by Microsoft. Be sure to follow the stream of money when you look at the studies.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Down on VOIP for power requirments, also in general

I think the efforts needed to support VOIP phone systems following power loss seem enormous compared to the requirements for the old intelligent key based office systems.

(I know I'm behind the program on these comments, but I've just been reviewing options myself)

The older systems could run off a couple car batteries for long periods with no need for power to the desk or the need to do anything special to power the individual phones. No needs for massive UPS, no need for a series of expensive POE switches. Even if you use a UPS, the uptime on the older systems would be much longer than what you'd get from a VOIP server using the same UPS. Plus the setup to give a receptionist or whoever un-switched POTS circuits that remained operable was extremely simple.

I think as soon as people start needing to extend the office extension system over the Internet to different locations, VOIP is fantastic. Do most of your calls rack up big long distance charges (seems peculiar for a church), that's also a solid go. Need over 8 outgoing connections at once, or over 25 extensions at once.... another good reason to look at VOIP. Just starting to wire the building, you should plan for VOIP even if you don't use it right now. So, as you mentioned, I do think its something to keep on the radar.

But for many churhes who have modest needs, VOIP just seems like a way to spend more money for something less reliable, more complicated, and less featured. For those churches the choice shouldn't be between VOIP and the expensive enterprise phone system offerings. There's mid tier phone systems any tech guy can purchase and self install relatively easily. The mid-tier DIY market has existed for over a decade and will easily cut your cost to 1/3 what you'd spend setting up a enterprise system the likes of those from Nortel, Cisco, etc. You'll still get the better quality, highly integrated, easier to use phone sets, and the system easier to maintain. Probably in the long term VOIP is right, but right now it just seems too immature a technology for most churches and is one I really think they'd be better off avoiding until they are pressed by one or more of the fore-mentioned needs.

The coolest new technology isn't always the best choice. (I guess, still a good heads up for folks though.)

Mark

Mark

VOIP is mature

I don't think VOIP is immature from experience. My first experience with VOIP was back in 2000 where I worked. At that time it was a mature enough technology to be used in commercial environments.

Move forward 7 years to today. The technology has gotten more mature, easier to use, and more widely adopted. At the same time the hardware has gotten much more powerful.

Does this mean it's right for a church? Nope. But it is something to consider and maybe for a church with 10 staffers. If you figure 10 staff and each has a phone, plus several numbers for the church itself it might be a way to go.

Some of the savings is in local calls and not just long distance. It's the all around monthly savings. Companies like AT&T are offering VOIP now. What is needed beyond that is an internal switching system for the different lines.

Now, I don't know about you but power outages where I am at are rare. When I was younger we may be out of power for a week a year. Now, if there is a few hours in a year it's odd.

You are right that older POTS lines were powered and didn't suffer from some of the limitations we have today. Having one POTS line is not a bad idea at all.

Every church should evaluate it on their situation. If your church is doing construction than laying down the lines would be a good idea. Heck, putting in some fiber lines may not be bad either.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Labeling VOIP Immature Too Severe

On reflection, I think my label of immature was too severe. But I find VOIP mostly still has some way to go, particularly when you use open source. I find it significantly less refined than what I'm expecting.

I've been watching it develop for last 15 years or so, and had hoped by now I could gain its benefits without losing so many of the benefits and refinements of the traditional systems we had been using. Supporting BLF (busy line field) lamped buttons for 12-24 lines is easy with an old economy key system, but difficult or impossible with most VOIP setups. Lots of times I find these features are what a small office user likes best and most wants.

I can get a high reliability, solid state, KSU that runs on little power, powers all its phones, takes no hardware maintenance, and operates in environmentally hostile environments... all for a bit less than what I'd pay for getting any kind of VOIP up and going.

In theory there is no reason VOIP can't be a lot more like that, but right now it isn't. I'm thinking it will get there, but it isn't yet.

Of course the importance of all this is just my opinion.

Mark

Mark