Top 10 Things To look For when shopping VoIP for business
Considering VoIP for business: 10 questions to ask
The owners of today’s businesses have seemingly limitless options available to them when it comes to selecting a business phone system. Even more so now as managed IP communications systems (like VoIP) grow in popularity. At first glance, the buying process might appear complicated. However, businesses can easily upgrade to a more proficient system and save money doing it. A little smart shopping goes a long way!
Here are the top 10 questions that business owners looking to implement VoIP should be asking.
- Which system offers the greatest advantages, traditional phone service or business VoIP?
- Which calling features are the most important to my business?
- Will the system support mobility?
- What are the costs involved?
- Will the system scale to support my planned business growth?
- Is customer or technical support available when I need it?
- How reliable is the system?
- Will my information be secure?
- How long does set up take?
- Is onboarding and training help available?
Which system offers the greatest advantages, traditional phone service or business VoIP?
For most businesses, the first question is always the most difficult: Should they stick with a traditional copper-wire phone system or deploy a hosted VoIP system? Not surprisingly, the technology used in each of these systems differs greatly and buyers should understand the basics prior to making any decisions.
Copper-wire connections have been around for decades; however, that does not instantly make them superior. VoIP operates over high speed Internet connections and utilizes some of the most advanced technology available.
Which calling features are the most important to my business?
This question must be taken into careful consideration. The key is to determine which features are available on each phone system and then weigh the benefits. Every phone system offers standard features like call forwarding, hold, and voicemail. However, hosted systems might include access to enhanced features like presence calling, recording, software integration and other elements that would be costly add-ons for anyone using a legacy premise-based system.
Will the system support mobility?
Modern workers are becoming increasingly mobile, and in order to keep up with trends, businesses are deploying BYOD (Bring your own Device) and other mobile policies that allow employees to access the company phone system and its tools from outside of the physical office location. This is often achieved with the use of mobile apps that allow employees to maintain their business identity when communicating with customers and coworkers.
The availability of mobile features often varies between providers, some will offer these services as part of their core packages and others may require add-ons.
What are the costs involved?
Communications services are an investment that businesses cannot afford to overlook; however, few businesses are blessed with unlimited operating capital and strive to find reliable methods of doing more with less. VoIP customers are often shocked to discover how much more cost-effective VoIP system is when compared to traditional phone service.
Most VoIP providers will offer a standard base price model and then the fee will increase for each user or feature not included in the base package. Questions to ask include:
- Are setup fees required?
- Are there monthly recurring charges that go above and beyond the monthly fee?
- Which features are included?
- What sort of international calling rates are needed?
- Is a contract required? Is there an early cancellation fee?
VoIP providers typically do not require customers to enter into lengthy contracts for basic phone services. Price should never be the ultimate deciding factor when entering into an agreement as the best service seldom comes with the lowest price tag.
Will the system scale to support my planned business growth?
The most successful businesses have established growth plans and the risk of outgrowing the phone system is always a concern for customers of traditional phone service. In some situations a business may need a new phone feature to manage new programs or they may need to add a new list of extensions to support new departments – in any event, it is comforting to know early on how well your phone system will scale to support growth efforts.
Is customer or technical support available when I need it?
Most businesses classified as small or medium do not have the benefit of large in house IT staff, because of this, the management of a phone system is typically outside of their capabilities. Companies like this will typically rely on their phone providers to support their communications system needs. Not every provider will offer the same level of, or access to customer and technical support. It is important to remember that traditional phone service providers normally build the PBX at the customer’s location and there will likely be a great deal of equipment to maintain. Any repairs, add-ons or changes will require a call to customer support to have a technician dispatched to the location.
Hosted VoIP solutions providers manage the phone system offsite and distribute the service virtually, removing the need for onsite technicians. This means that service issues can be addressed in a much more timely fashion. Some providers even offer access to innovative web portals to allow customers to self manage basic functions.
How reliable is the system?
Reliability is often the term used to describe customers having continuous access to their communications systems. Nowadays, VoIP providers in particular, have made significant improvements in reliability.
Traditional systems were subject to all sorts of reliability issues like down telephone lines, floods, fires and technical glitches.
Hosted VoIP systems operate in redundant data centers and remain operable even if disaster strikes at the customer’s business location.
Will my information be secure?
The leading VoIP providers go to great lengths to ensure that the services they provide are secure. This means taking safe guarding measures like encryption, fire walls and other protocols. There have even been instances of VoIP providers operating over their own private data network in order to allow them to control the first and last service mile.
How long does set up take?
Copper wire systems typically take much longer to set up because of all of the equipment and hardware involved. In a normal situation, after agreeing to contract terms, a scheduled service installation by a technician will be needed. It is not uncommon for the whole process to take weeks.
With hosted VoIP same day installation is a possibility.
Is on-boarding and training help available?
Having a new phone system is great. However, the joy quickly subsides for those who don’t clearly understand how to use the system or how to roll it out to their staff. Ask potential vendors about their on-boarding processes and what tools they may have to help your business become quickly acquainted with the various functions of the system.