Executive Director's Perspective: Technology - By Melissa J. Schank

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionPDF versionPDF version
Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master.

—Christian Lous Lange

How many times have you sat at your desk and the internet is down, and you wonder how you can get what you need without an internet connection? About eight years ago we switched over to VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol). VOIP is where our phone lines use the internet. We switched at the time for the cost savings, as we then did not incur any long-distance fees. Over the past five years, however, landlines have become less expensive and include 1,000–5,000 minutes of long distance to compete with cell-phone carriers that don’t charge for long distance. The only problem is when the internet is down—or the weather is bad—our service can be choppy or completely disrupted. We have been researching going back to landlines for the office. The cost for the hardware has a higher initial cost of approximately $5,500. We are also meeting with other VOIP companies to compare current phone and email services to ensure we are receiving a competitive rate and the best service possible. We are still determining which is better for us—VOIP or landlines.

At the same time, our traffic for the website has increased over the last five years, which is excellent news, but we host our website onsite and that has caused problems. We moved from a T1 line, which used to be the fastest and greatest, to an internet line. But the speed for uploads and downloads is too slow. And in today’s world, we all want everything now! We are excited that we finally have the option to purchase fiber optic. The upload and download speed is 250/250—which is 100 times faster than what we currently have.

It has taken a while to get Google scheduled to come out. We have called every day for four weeks, and the response has been that they are shorthanded. We finally had someone come last week to survey the area. They will be able to run the cable lines, but they will need to cut a tree and do some other minor landscape work. But we now at least have a tentative completion date. 

In the past with a landline, the long-distance fees for faxes proved to be cost prohibitive. Then we switched to VOIP faxes using internet lines that converted to analog when routed to the office. This allowed us to receive the standard printed faxes. But when we experienced a high peak volume, our lines would be busy and our members would call complaining that they couldn’t get their faxes to go through. And during bad weather, members had similar problems.

We recently switched our fax machines to AT&T e-fax, so when you fax us, it automatically goes into an email box—which we then can manually print off. (We check the email throughout the day.) The great thing about this is that we receive faxes despite bad weather or even if the line is down. Like email, this system stores all faxes sent. And the overall cost is lower based on the number of faxes we receive. We continue to monitor the number of faxes sent and received.

We are also currently working with the Technology Committee on revamping our website. If you have any suggestions, send them to me or the chairs: Grant Scheiner, scheinerlaw@gmail.com, or Jeremy Rosenthal, j.rosenthal@rosenthalwadas.com. In other technology developments, we are working on updating the new seminar app and contemplating moving to eBooks. If you do not yet have the TCDLA app, you should download it. There’s help if you need some guidance, including a short explanatory video on our website you can watch—or you can just call the office, at (512)478-2514, and anyone who answers can walk you through the process.

We will continue improving our apps, website, listserves, and communication tools to provide the best member services we can. We also encourage feedback, whether suggested improvements or something new you would like to see. If anyone is looking at switching their internet, phone system, or website and would like guidance or information on what has worked or not for TCDLA, feel free to contact me. We are here to help you in any way we can.