Farewell Spectrum VoIP – Hello Callcentric!

I recently started looking for ways to cut the cord.

I’ve been a member of the method of digital media vs. OTA or Cable for a while, however, the Mrs. is a big fan of cable – well I recently noticed even she is slowly drinking the kool-aid of all the digital outlets we have access to, and I shut down our Cable TV & while I was at it, our Phone Service.

Sure sure, the guy explained to me on the phone “But you’d lose the Caller ID on your TV!” – after the 30 or so minutes on the phone having him console me on this horrible loss which as I don’t watch cable TV, and we don’t get a TON of home calls, I pulled myself together, and said: “I’ll be ok.” LOL, Honestly there is a lot more to the world than just having Caller ID on my television screen.

So I did some research and the solutions out there range from Plug and Play with a hefty price tag or the option I went with which is DIY with pretty good savings. How good? $39.99 -> $8. Yeah, that says $8. Now granting you do need to buy some hardware, number porting was free, and it does take a little patience if you aren’t too tech savvy, but in the end I was able to set up my office number and home phone number on the same hardware and cost wise was still under $20 a month. That’s it.

I went with Callcentric as it had amazing reviews – some with folks upset about things like local dialing not working (which they have documentation for on their site to hardwire your local area code) and some general just frustration that it’s not a pre-configured deal, requires some legwork.

In the end if you are looking for something like this honestly I’d say go with Callcentric, because if you are like me, your home phone is a little old school – folks mainly call in, I rarely call out so cost wise I get 90 minutes of monthly outbound calling, but unlimited inbound calling – so when I get that call from the doctor, the Mrs. school, etc. it’s free – and if I need to call out, I’ve got my cell if its a complex call needing hours.

All in all, it works for me. If you are interested in knowing more I’ll happily write up a tutorial on getting set up, enabling local dialing, etc. including too the routing on the OBIHAI OBi202 which was great for me since it allows 2 separate lines but the lower 200 model which is a little cheaper works fine if you are simply replacing your single home line not an office + home line.

Post a comment if you are interested and I’ll write it all up (may do so anyway) but if you are interested posting will encourage me to do it sooner vs. later 🙂

Shutting Down Vonage

14 years. Yowza. I hadn’t realized how long I have been with Vonage. But that all ended today.

I signed up 14 years ago while I was still living with my parents, the reason? I was doing business in Tennessee and I wanted to make it easier for locals to call, so I picked up my old 615 number and used it to talk to customers in that area.

Well fast forward 14 years and it’s been ages since I’ve actually seen the Vonage hardware. I’m not even joking, I’ve been paying monthly to keep the number safe and it was set up if the hardware wasn’t found or “offline” it’d simply route to my business line. Worked just fine. Till my business debit card changed.

It’s scary that I’m still just barely finding out months later things that were using the old card which didn’t get updated, and Vonage was one of them, so I paid my bills, called in and canceled. Now the lady told me something interesting:

You can port your number for the next 30 days.

Normally you port -> cancel, but at first, I was going to let it go, but then with the whole debit card issue, figure there might be a call or two still tied to this account, so I looked around and found NumberBarn.

Now, this ended up actually giving me more to work with overall, and for half the cost a month I actually picked up a toll-free number for the business + ported the old 615 to a parked message! Score! So for the cost of less than one month with Vonage, I got a year of the number parked, and unlimited forwarding on a toll-free number for over half the cost I was paying for the 615!

So a big win, something positive, something good. Been needing more of those lately, so a day where I don’t feel great I actually feel like I’m getting a lot accomplished. Thanks NumberBarn!

Health, Life, Business

13 days till the big upgrade, not really looking forward to it, nor dreading it – it’s gonna happen whether I like it or not 🙂

I have had a rough week. My sugars aren’t leveling out and doc officially added insulin to the mix. Not something I had desired honestly. Tonight is the first night that I’ve increased my dosage from 10units -> 12 units as 10 units wasnt’t cutting it, so slowly on-boarding to find a dose that works – I am honestly thinking it’ll end up being 11, but time will tell, as 3 days with 10 no luck, now onto 12 for 3 days. Here goes nothing.

Life is crazy, made it though V-Day, both gals in my life were very happy with my flowers, I will admit while the wife enjoyed the flowers, the daughter went maybe a tad crazier over a giant red tulip 🙂 She’s three and excited 🙂

Business is blah. Just a lot of stress lately with cash-flow, I hate it when customers seem to have more power than I do. I have one who is 3 weeks of payments behind, I do contract administration for them and in some cases its 4 payments before I get the payments that as they were set up were meant to be delivered weekly – that’s only happened a few times.

Too business in general just in a slump, trying to stay positive, but when you throw in crappy blood sugar, negative nancy’s who aren’t pro no need for insulin, it’s not been a good balance of good/bad in life lately, seems like a lot of bad.

For now, I am going to try and take it easy the remainder of this evening, I do have a server reboot for a customer in about an hour, but I’ve taken my insulin, still need to take my other nightly meds before I crash out, but after 11, I think its going to be a quick translation from Chair -> bed.

Firming up Brands

One thing I’ve had over the years is a hodgepodge of interfaces to interact with customers. Dropbox to share a file, CloudApp to share a screenshot/video/etc – and the list could go on of 3rd Party Tools I’ve used to share a link which doesn’t bare my brand(s).

Now Thrust Networks I had previously done some work and CloudApp has a paid tier in which I got a custom URL, which was awesome. Having my logo at the top was great, but two things:

  1. Cost
  2. Can’t Have Two URL’s

And while FlockHosting tends to be more active to re-brand all Thrust Networks stuff over, just didn’t really work – so enter some great tools which have allowed me to really work on having some resources to bring things together!

Dropbox Replacement: NextCloud

It’s free. A great first start, but the sync clients for desktop/tablet/phone are a great addition! It’s awesome to share a file from my own URL, my own branding – the install is simple and on my servers, it runs smoothly, did two customer screencasts today to help with customer issues, and honestly, it was as simple as saving to a folder on my computer and tada. Online.

CloudApp Replacement: Dropshare

This one is great it came with Setapp and does a great job even more so than the replacement idea of Nextcloud for Dropbox, because there I have 2 installs for customer files on TN & FH – so two copies to keep up (but the app syncs both!) this is no server software, its all app.

I have 3 profiles set up one for Generic, FH, and TN – And I can easily switch between accounts to upload screenshots, short clips, etc. very very very handy.

Overall I’m really hoping to build out more tools, and yes while sometimes others have built it and its easier to just sign-up, these tools have added value & saved me money.

My New Friend: Trello

For a while now a few friends have included me on Trello boards and honestly? I never got it. It was unfamiliar and at the time, I just plain and simple did not have the time to sit and sort it out?

So what’s changed? Honestly? 2018 is here, and I’m trying hard to organize a bit more. I finally decided to look at the tool that folks say help do just that, and I’ve taken time to sit down and give it a fair shake as it seemed like a favorite tool and had benefits, but now it was time to test that idea.

So I sat down and made my first board. Just a brain dump as I’d call it, just a LOT of ideas in one spot that had no organization, so went from there to sort it out into various lists to contain the cards and my big board is born. Awesome.

It’s been a process for over a week but now working on other boards from core ideas born from this dump of information, for instance just put a teaching idea from the lists to a fresh list called “Reviewed/Done” which has it’s own board now.

Honestly a great workflow, just wish IFTTT or Zapier had a link in enough to tie in Todoist into deadlines, would be great for that time management part, but will see this week and next how its deadlines option works, but for the most part going to at least work to create a flow in IFTTT for anything put in a “In Progress” list it will create some sort of daily/weekly Todoist check-in notice.

For now, I need food; I should probably put in a daily reminder for that as I keep forgetting to eat! But hopefully, this new tool will help bring some great ideas to life!

PS:314 – 51

When I started the Post Something (PS) idea , it was for 365 days. Straight. Well life has happened, and while best intentions of getting in a post a day, I’ve fallen short. If all had gone well, I’d of been done on 01/18/2017, however here we are 04/17/2017 (A few days late… right.)

I wish I could say there were valid reasons, and I’m sure there were – marriage, kiddo, family, work, sure sure, lots of options of why – but if it’s a must, then it should of been a must. I failed. Plain and simple. But like the Jamaican Bobsled Team in Cool Runnings (Thanks Netflix!) , I’m going to carry myself across the finish line and that’s 51 more posts. That’s it. Now from beyond that? Not sure how it’ll continue, likely just back to posting occasionally.

Been working on taxes (yes last minute) fighting fatigue and stress at the moment, just seems like I’m going upstream without a paddle, but ran very rough numbers, and I think I’m going to be okay. I have my $800 check set aside for the LLC minimum tax, just have to organize my numbers, which is pretty much some of my night while I wait on a few reboots/tweaks on servers, and hopefully not the entire day tomorrow. I’d love to get things setup with an accountant, I’d love to hand it off, but part of me is thinking of too maybe re-branding. Thrust Networks has always gotten me a lot of strange looks. Maybe time to shutter it, start a new name, and start the books off fresh with someone who can help me get it setup, help me streamline and make it all easier to manage year-to-year – two birds, one stone.

A lot of options on the horizon, taxes off that horizon helps a lot, a lot of changes, a lot of things in motion, I’d love to see more business growth, I’d love to have a simple tax system in the US of “You made $3 million dollars? You owe $1000.” lol something simple, I hate this overly complex system, and while companies like Turbo Tax do help cut through some of it, I’d just as soon not deal with it – so re-working the entire system sounds like a good plan on my side, just finding the way to do it, thats the big “How do I?” question.

Going to bed soon I hope, for now, back to work.

First Dispute with Stripe

Over the years I’ve used a few Credit Card Processors, oi. Some good, some bad, some nightmarish (coughpaypalcough)

Well, today I start the journey of a disputed charge with Stripe. I love the service; I love the ease, the UI for the phone app & web end, smooth, clean, suggest it night and day to customers.

Well, I just got the chime on the phone & the email explaining to me the dispute at hand, that a client (who likely just didn’t realize his two years was up and needed to pay again) disputed two charges one for the domain, and one for another two years of hosting. Not exactly what has helped me “wind down” tonight, but such is life. Buckled down, showed the invoices, the email chains with each invoice, and terms of service about canceling service.

So we shall see, the only thing I don’t like (but I understand) is that Stripe is taking funds from my bank -> repay the “fraud.” The last transactions for my account before Christmas is them removing the funds I got + $15 fee for each. I’ve submitted my info, I’ve emailed the customer, hoping between the two we can sort this out and get things rolling smoothly.

I will say this compared to my first “terminal” I used & PayPal’s dispute process, so far I like the quick info provided & a well structured response system. We’ll see if it pays off.

Webhosting is a Blessing!

13 years and counting. Hard to believe that its only been 13 years! Feel like the spirit of what FlockHosting does has been around a lot longer! I started helping Christian bands ages ago my old friend Pete Prevost before he was in Sanctus Real was in a band called “Johnny Come Lately”, I remember all those years ago building a page for the payment of … Taco Bell.

Well in some ways not much has changed, FlockHosting is an act of love, hosting over 100+ churches (looking forward to doing more!), I have customers all over the world and others here at home!

I’ve been insanely blessed, sure I’d love to see it produce a bit more income, but when you hear things like this:

Thanks so much for providing this service, we’re seeing new people come to our church just because they could find us on the internet when they move to the area and see what we do. I hope God is blessing you in all the work you do. – Andy C.

Wow. Plain wow. This is what I’ve always wanted to see folks do with FlockHosting, sure I have Thrust Networks which is the real core company, it’s the LLC everything is under, and operates, but honestly I love doing this ministry to churches.

I want to grow FlockHosting even more, I’d love to see it really just spring into action but the world of Shared Hosting slows down, as more and more companies offer the design, hosting, etc. all in one price, and I don’t have 3,000 employees – but who knows maybe I can find a way like I mention in the recent FlockUpdate doing some design at affordable rates (not the $10,000+ you see some places) but keeping it affordable and looking good! So some challenges ahead!

God is Good, and just give Him the entire business to do with as He sees fit!

Let’s get down to business….

For over 10 years I’ve owned my own business – maybe not the most successful in terms of dollars and cents, but I love it! I’ve had days I’ve not been a fan, and had stress from it, but in the end over the last decade it has changed and evolved into what it is now, something a bit more manageable!

Me and My Big Brother Ron (We are so cool!)
Me and My Big Brother Ron (We are so cool!)

I remember back in 1997-1998 working Modern Networks with my brother (okay so I was the tag-along to what big brother was doing!) it was fun! We had some folks we worked on their websites using a re-seller hosting platform and it was fun, I remember still using it years later as I split off and was doing my own thing for friends, helping host band websites, local ministry’s and such – and then joined a company bringing my customers and a slew of my own websites called Mass Communications – which was fun too as I got to work with friends like Dan, Adam, Tom, and My Brother as well! It was going well but took some snags and too just didn’t work as a long-term fit, but thus Thrust Networks was born.

The Business!Within a year of starting Thrust Networks a lot of changes were on-going – had outages, stress, a PG&E Gas Main rupture behind the building, many many many many many many many *breath* many many many nights without sleep or little sleep – had a break-in (or at least a window shattered by a rock) – but it was quite the first year of business – but then I began moving customers from our little rack shown here to datacenters outside of Bakersfield, as we were pushing the limits of a T1 line, a growing customer base between two companies, and there wasn’t room to keep it all local anymore, we’d out grown our local ability (well affordably).

As things moved forward outside of the local area, I began to see more and more needs out in the Christian Community, sites I was a fan of getting hit with overages/outages – needed to do something and thus FlockHosting was born to offer the Christian Community a safe and affordable option for hosting.

And things have been going since! Now over a decade later I’m still working on things! Thrust Networks is actually getting a site coded right now as I haven’t actually had a active website for Thrust Networks for nearly 8 years – FlockHosting is getting some TLC as we enter the second half of the year, and its all coming together nicely!

I am excited about what God can do with this business, what he can make happen and how he can support me and one day a family, it’s not perfect right now and is in a BIG growing stage, but like anything that grows it must be prepared for the growth to come, so big cleanup of servers, big change up of software/configurations – a lot of work is to come! Can’t wait to see what will happen over the next decade, but too looking around for options too for a side job maybe even part time to balance out the budget, pay down debt faster, and just get things smoother and smoother sailing!

For now though my business is doing its job, and giving me a place to live, but I want to see it flourish and grow and become even more, that one day it will do even more and more for more and more people, I’m blessed to serve – and hope to serve folks for many years to come.