Thursday, March 6, 2008

How I Saved $4500 a Year for the company I work for in a Single Day

Many of us know that cell phone service providers are no fun to deal with when trying to make changes to your account. In lots of cases you will be transferred to a 3rd world country helpdesk representative with limited communication skills and knowledge of the company’s own products and services. Or even worse – you will finish a call happy that all has been taken care of just to find out at the end of the billing period that what you have requested verbally over the phone and was confirmed by the company representative on the other side of the line was inaccurately entered in “the system”. The usual result is that you or the company you work for end up paying more for cell phone service, because of the mistakes of others.

One of my duties as a Network Administrator at the company I work for is to assist with activation and configuration of mobile phone devices with different service providers. Our company has been dealing with Nextel, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile as “main” providers of cell phone plans for our employees through the years and all have been at approximately the same level of overall customer service – DISMAL!

Of course there are periods when you are provided with good quality service, even possibly a dedicated account representative but that usually doesn’t last – after all cutting costs takes precedence over taking care of existing or future customers.

I have been thinking on consolidating our company’s cell phone plans ever since I learned about the availability of Business plans with Shared Minutes. Today I was able to do this for ALL our mobile phones with one of the service providers, which will result in about $350/mo of savings to a total of $4200 per year.

Some history
  • We had 30 cell phone lines under contract with the service provider;
  • Each of the phone lines were on its own plan – usually around 450 – 500 minutes/month per line @ $40/ mo per line;
  • The majority of the phone lines were underutilized, as the majority of devices are Blackberry units, with separate unlimited data plans/email service already activated. If you have ever used the old style Blackberry device (7510, 7520 models) for a phone call you know it is no fun. Theses devices were used for email and that’s all;
  • The average combined monthly usage on all our phones was 750min/mo!!! The absolute maximum for the last 7 months was 1150 minutes in one month in the busiest for our company period;
  • There were phones placed on Standby for the last 6 months or more at $6/mo for ...hmmm – I don’t know what?!?
After a single 2 hour call today (which I consider a miracle by itself...) I was able to transfer all our service plans to:

Single 1400 Shared Minutes plan of $80/mo for the first device and 26 add-on lines for $25 ea., where all minutes are shared between all 27 lines. All phone lines on Standby were canceled and there was no penalty for this as they were outside any contracts.
Same was repeated with 3 other phone lines with a different service provider to bring the total amount of savings to $380/mo ($350 from Provider 1 and $30 from Provider 2), which is a whopping $4560 / y Savings just from cell phone bills!!!

Lessons learned
  • Check with your cell phone provider if Shared Minutes service plans are available. Some providers may have limitations of the total number of lines you can add per such plan;
  • Check if there are phones placed on Standby and cancel them if they are not under any service contract. Keep them if still under contract and the cancellation fee is too steep OR argue for the cancellation fee to be waived as you are a business customer with great relationship with the provider;
  • Consolidate ALL your cell phone lines under a single Share Minutes plan to save your company some money.
NOTE: Some mobile devices may require to be re-activated under the new plan. Ask the customer representative if there is any procedure which the devices need to go through if the service stops working because of the service plan changes.

When all is set and done you can pat yourself on the back and write this achievement in your resume for the future employers to know why are they paying you the big bucks :)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Free (as in free beer) Software from Microsoft DreamSpark

While gathering materials for an upcoming article on deeply discounted computer software for (most of) the general public I came upon an interesting link to a new and unknown to me at least Microsoft Software Offer to College / Higher Education Students.

The offer is part of the recent Microsoft DreamSpark initiative which can be summarized in the following statement from the official website:
“Microsoft DreamSpark enables students to download Microsoft developer and design tools at no charge.

I like “No Charge”. But what are you actually getting?
Currently only the following Microsoft Software is available for free:
  • Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition
  • Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition
  • Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition
  • SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition
  • Expression Studio (consists of Expression Web, Blend, Design and Media)
Other free software developing tools (their Express Editions) are also listed for free download, but they are available directly from Microsoft’s website to anyone anyway, so I won’t count them as a part of this special offer.

The retail price of these software packages is anywhere from
$41.99to $689.99at, so getting them for free from the DreamSpark website will be worth it.

What is the process to obtain these applications for free?

Go to the official download website:

Sign in with your Windows Live ID
Get verified as a College or Higher Education Student
Download the ISO image
Burn it to a CD / DVD and...

Enjoy your Free Software!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Free International Phone (and Video) Calls through Skype

In about 5 minutes I will be testing Skype for a Video Phone call to the country of my origin.
I'm excited to try the new technology, but the actual occasion is a sad one in this case. Still if this proves to work fine with our painfully slow Internet connection we will use this free service for the future.
You just can't beat the price!
It is free to make phone calls computer - to - computer through the Skype Software, which is a free download from
Hook up a regular USB webcam (around $30 retail, but cheaper on E-Bay ) to your computer and you have an easy way to see and hear your friends around the world with Free Video Calling.

Check it out yourselves!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

On a Road Less Traveled

Starting a new blog is challenging even for a professional writer I presume. It requires a passion for the subject of your blog and enough (quiet) time to sit down and write your thoughts and discoveries for the day. Blogging is fun - I'm sure it will become a second nature to me in no time :)

Recent changes on the blog:

- Added Google Translate widget, which provides some limited translation capabilities for all us immigrants for whom English is not a primary language. If nothing more - try it to amuse yourself how inaccurate automatic translations are :)
- Signed up for, StumbleUpon, blog lines, Twitter. Hopefully now that I know some more about editing my blog template I'll add quick links for these helpful tools.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Minor changes - lots more to learn

As a total new member of the blogging community (and web-page building for that matter) I have to learn a ton of new stuff. What I learned today is how to add a favicon to my blogger website, so I can get rid of the orange "B" logo of blogger itself.

Thanks to I was able to change this in about 15 minutes. What's left is to adjust the icon, so it is not a complete shameless plug from one of my favorite websites (hats off if you can guess which one that is... :) and get something more in line of the goal of this blog.

What is coming out in the near future:

  • Transferring to a 4-column template
  • Adding finally the much needed content. I've been composing the last couple of days (but thinking about it for the last eight years)

In regards the content - here is what you can expect in the future:

  • Getting your own Social Security Number (every Immigrant has to start with this)
  • Getting your own Personal ID
  • Opening your first bank account
  • Enrolling in free ESL classes
  • Renting your first apartment
  • Purchasing your first computer
  • Applying for your first job position
  • ....

This will be enough to get started. Much attention will be paid on providing step-by-step info for new or future immigrants and also how a person who is just starting their independent life would save money on each of these steps.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Beginning...

OK. Everybody has to start somewhere. So this is it - my first post. Once I get the basics squared away the rest is sure to come easy, right ;)

What will this blog be all about?

Let's just say that after living for eight years in US I think I have some thoughts to share with the broader public, which may help out people who are just starting with their lives away from Ma and Pa. Furthermore I wish this blog could help some fellow immigrants achieve faster the financial freedom they have all longed for when they left home and country. Such help and guidance was something I longed for when I first started my life in the big terra incognita of the United States of America.

So wish me luck and stay tuned!!!