How to choose the right VoIP service provider
And what mistakes to avoid…
Conventional phone service can quickly become a costly venture, particularly if you are endeavoring to use such services to satisfy the unique communications demands of the small-to-midsized business market. Luckily, such businesses now have the options when it comes to voice communications and are no longer subject to the burdens of standard phone service.
In today’s marketplace, instead of investing large sums of money on dated PSTN services, businesses can now opt for more reliable and cost-efficient Voice over IP (VoIP) communications platforms. These types of digital calling systems leverage the functionalities of high-speed Internet to transmit high quality voice calls, and present users with a wide range of rich, business-enhancing features. The question remains, however, how do you choose a VoIP provider?
Choosing a VOIP Service Provider that understands how important reliable communications are to your business
VoIP and unified communications are no longer keywords that are followed by confused glares and uncomfortable silence. Most customers have, at the very least, heard about IP-enabled communications services and have a basic understanding of the concept.
A simple online search for ‘VoIP providers’ will net hundreds of results of companies all vying for your business. Many of which are not likely to be able to meet your needs. This is where factors like longevity in the industry, reputation for providing reliable service, and the knowledge of the support staff really come into play. Effective communications are crucial to the survival of any consumer driver business; it is important to ensure that your chosen VoIP provider understands that and acts with your best interest in mind. If you’re in the market for a VOIP service provider, check out our analysis and review of VoIP phone service providers.
Mistakes to avoid when choosing an IP service provider
Businesses are steering away from conventional telecom providers in record numbers, each hoping to harness the cost savings capabilities of voice over IP, while leveraging the many great calling features provided by the service. With the potential for great returns being high, it is easy to get caught up in the hype, rush to make decisions and end up with a less than capable VoIP service provider.
To mitigate this risk, and to ensure that you will reap the maximum benefits afford by a fully managed VoIP system, it is worthwhile to first understand what potential obstacles might be present and how to avoid them.
Unrealistic expectations, failing to understand how VoIP works
Prior to selecting a VoIP service provider it is best to have some understanding of how VoIP works. This does not mean becoming an expert in all things digital. However, a developed knowledge of the basics will put you in a better spot to recognize the red flags that not all providers may disclose. It will also prevent you from expect too little (or too much) of a VoIP system.
Failing to dig deep enough to uncover the presence of hidden charges or fees
While it is true that one of the most common driving factors for businesses adopting a VoIP service provider is the potential for reduced calling charges, hidden charges and service caps may exist. In order to verify the presence of these added fees, buyers must look beyond the disclosed price lists commonly found on provider websites. Additional charges are often rolled into things like usage caps, licensing and support.
Working with an un-established provider
In business, everyone has to start somewhere and VoIP companies are no different. However, your business cannot afford to take great risks with its communications capabilities.
VoIP technology is constantly evolving and longevity in this complex sphere is substantial. Many digital communications vendors have only been around for a handful of years and many not have fully established themselves. Working with a newer or inexperienced may work out great for some businesses, for others it might mean being locked into systems that haven’t had all of the bugs ironed out, or being left in the dark when a provider closes up shop and disappears. Take the time to learn about the history of any vendor that makes it to your short list in order to not only protect your investment but also guarantee a strong ROI.
Partnering with a vendor that doesn’t take into consideration network traffic and bandwidth consumption
When migrating to a VoIP system it is important to remember that all calls to and from the business will be routed over the Internet. This means that depending on the type of connection used, the upload capacity may be limited. For businesses with heavy call volumes and heavy data transmission, there may not be enough available bandwidth for VoIP to function optimally. As a result, call quality will suffer, jitter and packet loss will occur and the overall results will be very poor.
Any provider that you choose to work with should take the time to carefully assess your needs and will also provide you with the information you need to verify that your current Internet connection is compatible with their VoIP service.
Reputable VoIP providers will be happy to conduct a network test to determine whether or not you system can handle VoIP integration.
Forgetting to ask about things like user licenses, available features and disaster recovery options
For the average home user, deploying VoIP is relatively pain-free: Simply select a provider, pay the monthly charge and install the softphone application. Business users, on the other hand, are not so lucky. Some VoIP solutions providers use licensing as a way to lock in customers and try to justify doing so by overcompensating on the immense value of the service. Always verify the terms and conditions of licensing agreements prior to signing contracts.
While researching the provider’s standard licensing agreement, take the time to fully understand whether or not a disaster recovery plan exists. Not all providers offer disaster recovery services and if you don’t know that early on you could be putting your business in a potentially crippling situation should the system or office location ever become inoperable.
The availability of basic and necessary features is another avenue that must be carefully explored. Access to revolutionary and rich features is one of the very reasons that most companies migrate to a VoIP service provider. However, a high percentage of providers of the service do not offer the most basic calling functions, such as call forwarding. When exploring potential vendors, ask for a hands-on demo of the system and a detailed list of what services and features are offer with each plan.
Now that you understand what things to look out for and which to avoid, selecting an experienced VoIP provider should be a trouble-free process. Online review boards are good place to start, or you can click here to view our detailed analysis of the top 10 best VoIP service providers!