Top10 Voip List: The Business VoIP Buying Guide
VoIP Buying Guide
The move towards a preference for digital technology has been abandoning traditional services, such as cable TV and standard phone services in record numbers. Increased availability to affordable and reliable high-speed Internet service makes it easier for businesses to hang up on traditional phone service and adopt forward thinking technologies like Voice over IP.
VoIP sounds miraculous. The marketing fluff and catch words make it sound like the most flexible, full-featured, scalable communications powerhouse available, claiming that the system practically pays for itself in just a few short months.
Is VoIP really everything they claim it is? Are the risks worth the investment? This buyers guide will walk you through basics, discuss the pros and cons, and show you where you can learn more about the top 10 VoIP providers of the year.
How does VoIP technology work?
For anyone exploring a hosted VoIP service the whole process is relatively simple. Most of the leading VoIP providers take care of all of the hard stuff offsite, and then deliver calls to your business phones with minimal interruptions. The majority of these providers require no additional hardware onsite, with the exception of a few plug-and-play type IP-enabled phones. In certain scenarios, businesses may need to make room for a small equipment box.
In comparison, businesses looking at managing a self-hosted premise-based VoIP system will have a little more leg work ahead of them. Firstly, they will require an IP-based PBX (which is similar to a traditional private branch exchange, only optimized for VoIP use) and a PSTN gateway.
Regardless of the option chosen, most moderately technical users are often able to manage basic phone settings and extension management over the phone. Whereas most advanced configuration may require accessing an online interface.
What is required for VoIP implementation?
Depending on the size of the business and the condition of any existing infrastructure, migrating to VoIP may cost very little, or it could result in substantial upfront charges.
Voice over IP requires continual access to a reliable broadband Internet connection, and the more users a system has the greater the bandwidth it will consume. For smaller businesses, this may not be much of a concern. Larger businesses, however, may need to invest in network upgrades in order to achieve the kind of service quality they expect of the system.
Verify that your internal network – including all switches and routers – can manage the load. Many of the leading VoIP providers recommend using a router with configurable QoS settings and assigning traffic priority.
If your ISP puts caps on bandwidth usage, you will need to carefully consider the outcome should you hit the cap. The most common codec used by VoIP providers consumes 64kb of data per talk second. In a real-time situation, businesses of moderate size should have no issues with going over bandwidth caps, even with high call volumes; however, it is important to monitor data usage as a precaution.
Lastly, even if you do decide to go the route of a fully hosted, cloud-based service, you will still need to make sure that your phones are compatible for VoIP. Most of the available VoIP systems use SIP technology to assign each call, meaning that you will likely require SIP-enabled phones. If you wish to keep your legacy phones or old fax machine, you will need to purchase an ATA (analog telephone adapter), but you may not be able to access all of the rich features that VoIP is known for.
The upside of VoIP
Why are businesses so attracted to VoIP communications?
The answer is simple; VoIP presents businesses with a reliable and cost effective enterprise-grade communications solution that helps them to remain competitive in a complex business market.
The affordability of VoIP is a driving factor for many businesses. In contrast, VoIP services are substantial less costly than conventional phone services. There are far fewer hardware ownership requirements, in fact, for businesses choosing a hosted solution there are no hardware investments needed at all. For businesses that do find that they need new hardware, it is typically based on technology such as SIP. Monthly fees are also much lower, and come with a plethora of perks, such as unlimited calling.
Voice over IP delivers greater value than traditional phone services if your business has multiple office locations or geographically separated staff. Unlike most telephone providers, VoIP provider allow their customers to contact their various branches and coworkers at no cost, regardless of how far separated each caller may be. This is possible because VoIP calls travel exclusively over data networks and never enter public telephone space.
Scalability is another serious advantage. Rather than put money out to purchase expensive hardware, adding or removing extensions to a VoIP network is a simple as plugging in a new device or phone.
The features available with VoIP are much more robust than those available with basic phone service, making it easier for SMB’s to compete with larger enterprises. Features available include:
- Automated attendant
- Call forwarding
- Enhanced voicemail
- Conference calling
- Internet fax
- Caller ID
- Call recording
- Presence dialing
- CRM integration
- … and more
The downside of VoIP
The most prevalent drawback of Voice-over-IP is the risk of loss of VoIP service in the event of Internet outages. Hosted VoIP service providers are able to mitigate this risk by implementing a variety of disaster recovery processes like sending calls to voicemail, rerouting calls to a different number, etc.
Lack of emergency calling options is another potential drawback. Many VoIP companies still do not offer 911 services, or if they do, they charge a premium.
The majority of the leading providers of VoIP communications offer unlimited North American calling, however, mobile calling or conference lines may incur additional charges. International calling is often billed on a per minute basis.
Lastly, even though VoIP service is superior to standard phone service, network quality directly affects call quality. This means that businesses with slow, blotchy or cramped networks will have complaints about call quality.