What Makes a Great VoIP Provider
More companies are turning to VoIP for their communications solution. The global VoIP market, valued at $83 billion in 2015, will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9.1 percent to reach $140 billion by 2021, Zion Research predicts. Hosted business VoIP accounts for the largest share of this market in terms of revenue. The growing demand for business VoIP has created more VoIP providers for companies to choose from, making comparative shopping more complex for business owners and IT professionals. Here are some guidelines for what to look for to help you find a great VoIP provider when choosing your company’s communications solution.
In order to use VoIP effectively, you must have an Internet connection fast enough to handle your Internet traffic along with your VoIP traffic. A connection that’s too slow can translate into slow Internet service as well as poor VoIP quality. Make sure you talk to prospective providers about their recommended bandwidth requirements and have them run a test to make sure your system can handle the increased traffic. You can also run your own test by using an online VoIP speed test service.
Reliability is a paramount consideration when choosing a business VoIP solution. VoIP services depend on your Internet connection, so when you Internet is down, it can mean your company loses communications services as well. Look for a VoIP provider with high availability as measured in guaranteed uptime. Availability is typically expressed in terms of numbers of “nines.” For example, 90 percent availability, or “one nine,” means that a system will average 36.5 days a year of downtime, or 2.4 hours a day. 99 percent availability or two nines equals 3.65 days a year of downtime, or 14.4 minutes a day. The bar for high availability is 99.999 percent availability or five nines, equal to 5.26 minutes of downtime a year or 864.3 milliseconds a day.
Switching to VoIP can potentially mean that breaches of your Internet security became breaches of your communications as well, unless you and your provider take preventive measures. Look for a provider who uses switches housed in a co-located data center on a government-protected network, with backup procedures to ensure that your system continues working and stays secure even if a telecommunications provider goes down. Make sure all network points are firewall-protected. Check that your provider uses a secure network backbone with segregated systems so that an Internet failure will leave your VoIP services intact. You should also find out what disaster recovery guarantees your provider offers.
VoIP services can have hidden hardware costs. Hardware estimates from providers typically do not include costs for updating your existing hardware to accommodate your new VoIP system. You may need to replace LAN cabling, upgrade your switchers and routers, and switch over to an uninterruptible power supply. Find out what hardware upgrades you need and whether these are included.
Training is another area where your VoIP service can have hidden costs. Some VoIP providers include training costs in their estimates, while others don’t. If hardware costs aren’t included, you should anticipate paying another $1,000 to $3,000 for each of your IT staff members. Find out if your prospective provider includes training in their estimate, and if not, how much training costs.
Cost is the biggest reason most companies switch to VoIP, so it’s important to get an accurate gauge of how much a prospective provider will actually save you. Factor in any hidden hardware or training fees such as those mentioned above. Also inquire if there are any fees for licensing, maintenance or adding new users. Finally, don’t forget to include monthly costs for phone services and data connections.