Selecting The Perfect VoIP Provider
Businesses of all sizes, across every industry, have either deployed VoIP or begun to explore to possibility of deploying VoIP. There are a number of reasons for this, the most common being the growing need for businesses to find more cost-effective ways of communicating without sacrificing quality or productivity.
What is Voice over IP?
VoIP can be broadly defined as, ‘the technology, communication protocols and transmission capabilities used for the delivery of voice communications and data over IP networks.’
There are many benefits available to businesses that leverage this technology for their communications needs. Utilizing the Internet for voice communications is more cost-effective than traditional methods and also makes IT management easier and more straightforward.
Additional advantages include:
- Reduced calling charges: When polled, more than 50% of potential or current VoIP subscribers indicated that cost was a prime factor driving their decision. (2010, Better buys for business). Most VoIP service providers offer flat rate plans that present businesses with unlimited domestic calling.
- Great system management: Installing a communications system into the corporate computer network makes individual phones easier to manage. Unlike conventional phone systems that required complex re-wiring in order to add or remove users, VoIP systems require minimal software configuration.
- Increased mobility: Modern employees are more mobile than employees of the past. With a VoIP-based system these employees are now free to make or take calls, using their work number, even when they are outside of the office. Most systems include intelligent call routing and presence functions that allow calls to easily be route to any predetermined device or number based on the location of the employee.
- Rich features: Since VoIP is software-based, most of the leading systems are comprised of productivity enhancing features, such as: call display, call records, call forwarding, address books, enhanced voicemail, file sharing and various other collaborative tools.
- Add–ons and software integration: Business VoIP systems are well known for their ability to increase productivity by being compatible with other software applications.
How to prepare for VoIP
Adding communications services to an already tapped network can put heavy stress on over-extended IT resources. This rings especially true for businesses with limited IT resources. Not adequately assessing network capabilities prior to implementation (and making necessary upgrades based on the findings) is one of the most critical mistakes that a company makes when migrating to a VoIP system.
Technology experts recommend that businesses carry out a call volume study during the initial planning phase, preferably with the assistance of a third party. This will help them to determine if their network will be capable of handling the added stress, or if additional upgrades may be needed.
Additionally it is necessary to ascertain the capability of the IT department to support the new system. Businesses opting for a managed service will not require additional IT resources.
How to pick a VoIP service provider
There is no shortage of available VoIP solutions providers, each offering different price models, features, and service delivery plans. One of the greatest decisions that a business will need to make when deciding to implement VoIP is whether to use an on premise system or to work with a managed VoIP provider.
Here is a simple illustration of the benefits of each:
|Ownership of hardware||Typically, the company owns all of the hardware and will maintain the system, upgrade, etc||Typically, the provider owns the system (the company may buy the phones). The provider will maintain the system, upgrade, etc.|
|Advantages||The company can customize a system to meet their unique needs more easily.||Lower upfront cost, greater options in terms of flexibility and scalability|
|Disadvantages||Could require big upfront investment, requires dedicated IT staff||Requires greater bandwidth and the system may fail in the event of network issues|
Top VoIP Features
Not all VoIP solutions providers offer the same features or price points. Here are the most common options available to businesses.
- Per user pricing: This is the most commonly seen pricing model. Per user pricing means that businesses will be charge a fee for each user. The alternative to this is to pay per call, which seldom makes sense in businesses with high outgoing call output.
- Toll-free North American calling: This is standard across most platforms, however, it is still possible to find providers who either don’t offer this option – or charge more for it. Businesses that have smaller calling regions can extend their savings capabilities by selecting a calling plan that covers a specific geographic radius.
- Number portability: Many VoIP providers will allow businesses to keep their existing phone number and extension. Some charges may apply.
- Round the clock technical support: Service agreement should outline the availability of technical support, along with any time guarantees.
- Security measures: One of the greatest detractors or VoIP is the potential for security threats. Be sure to inquire about the various security measures that each provider offers to mitigate such risks.
- Packed VoIP and Internet: Many companies are saving money by obtaining their Internet and VoIP services from a single supplier. Not all providers offer this option.
- Reliability: Communications services are mission critical. Conduct the necessary research to confirm a provider’s reliability, the steps they take to prevent major outages and their response protocols for incidents.