Most businesses don’t think about the phone systems they use until it breaks. It explains why many organizations still use outdated and legacy systems. But the future of communication lies in VoIP. As more carriers declare an end date for the PSTN, it is time to switch.
VoIP phone systems offer innumerable benefits to businesses of all sizes. Upgrading to VoIP can save you a lot of money as well. However, getting started with VoIP can seem daunting. You’re left to swim in a sea of acronyms and jargon.
If you would like to upgrade to VoIP and don’t know where to start, check out this handy guide to get the best VoIP experience.
The first step in upgrading is to understand your business requirements. Before you dive into researching the different types of VoIP, you should know what your business needs from it.
If you already have a business phone service, evaluate it thoroughly. What features does it have that you absolutely need? You can also ask your employees about what is important to them to complete their daily workflow. You are also likely to find some features that you don’t use quite as often but you still have to pay for.
Another thing to note is the number of users you have and expect to have in the future. Many VoIP pricing plans are based on the number of users within the organization but others are not. This number is also important when it comes to buying new VoIP phones for the office.
Evaluate your infrastructure
VoIP technology works by routing voice calls through existing data networks. On the one hand, it means you don’t need to maintain separate systems for voice and other data. on the other hand, your existing network infrastructure should be able to handle the additional load.
Some businesses prefer to create a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and segregate voice calls for quality and troubleshooting purposes. Others may even purchase a second internet connection specifically for VoIP calls. This option also means you have a backup if something goes wrong with your primary internet connection.
You may also need to upgrade hardware such as routers, firewalls, and switches to handle VoIP data. Sometimes it is as simple as updating the firmware but be ready to replace outdated models as well. Getting the best VoIP experience depends on the quality of your hardware as well.
Look to the Future
Another thing to keep in mind is your business goals and future expansion. The VoIP solution you select should support your current needs. But it should also be flexible enough to support future growth. Quite a few organizations use VoIP systems as the foundation for unified communication (UC) tools. You may not need it now but it could be essential in the future.
Accordingly, you should also make a list of must-haves and nice to have features. Your budget will play an important role in selecting the right features for the organization. Eliminate vendors who do not offer all the features on your must-have list. Considering there are hundreds of VoIP vendors in the market, this step will help you narrow down the field.
Types of Devices
It can be tempting to go all out and purchase new phones for the VoIP system. But the reality is that VoIP technology does not depend on desk phones. In fact, most VoIP services will support a number of devices including laptops and desktops, mobile devices, desk phones, conference phones, and even tablets.
You may have employees who prefer the portability of mobile devices and don’t need desk phones at all. You can also purchase different types of desk phones for your office employees. Top-of-the-line models for executives can easily cost thousands of dollars. But regular models with basic functions should suffice for the average employee.
If your business is going to replace in-person meetings with virtual conferences, you might want to invest in high-quality hardware. Some conferencing models come with multiple microphones and speakers for several people to participate at once. You should have a rough idea of how many devices of each type you are going to purchase before moving on to the next stage.
Once you know what your business needs, it is time to select a vendor to partner with.
Filter the vendor list
When you have hundreds and even thousands of VoIP vendors to choose from, it can be hard to narrow your option. We have already talked about filtering according to the list of your must-have features.
Another quick way to shorten your list is to eliminate all vendors who don’t fit in your budget. Some providers offer expensive plans with every possible feature thrown in. But is it something you really need? No business should pay for features they don’t use. Remember that you should always keep your budget in mind. It is easy to go overboard and spend much more than you expected when purchasing a new solution.
Check the vendor’s reviews and track record
Once you have a manageable list of about a dozen vendors or so, it is time to investigate further. It is the perfect opportunity to check online reviews for all the providers on your list. There are many third-party review sites that offer unbiased and honest reviews from customers.
Quite a few vendors also have testimonials from customers on their website. You can always contact them directly for their feedback as well. Case studies of individual businesses can also give a good idea about the best VoIP options for your company.
Unfortunately, many business owners do not consider security until after they have signed the contract and started implementation. But security is highly critical for the new phone system. Since VoIP uses the same internet to route calls, it is vulnerable to online threats such as spyware and ransomware.
That’s not to say VoIP systems are insecure but it is important to ask the vendor about security measures. Do they support encryption and implement security best practices? WIth any hosted VoIP service, a large part of the security depends on the vendor. So be sure to ask questions and get detailed answers.
Reputed vendors will have the necessary infrastructure to manage disaster recovery. They should be able to fall back to backup options (such as a landline or mobile phone). If something happens to your office, your employees should be able to get back to work at another location or even work from home.
There was a time when VoIP calls suffered from poor quality audio and missed calls. Hosted VoIP services how come a long way since then. Today – as long as the vendor implements Quality of Service (QoS) parameters correctly – you won’t be able to tell the difference between VoIP and PSTN calls.
QoS means optimizing the network traffic and infrastructure to prioritize voice calls. Voice and video calls are real-time communication and as such, delays will affect call quality. Unlike email where a delay of a few seconds doesn’t really matter, jitter, latency, and packet loss are important network considerations for VoIP.
Once you have a smaller list of say 3 – 4 providers, its time to dive into the details. Here’s where customer support options, Service Level Agreements, and responsiveness matter.
SLAs, Uptime, and Recovery
Service level agreements are crucial when it comes to phone systems. These set out the responsibilities of the vendor should something happen to disrupt service. A good vendor will have a track record of minimal downtime throughout the year. The SLA will outline the uptime they promise along with compensation if certain limits are exceeded.
Business owners should also ask about the time to recover. When a problem occurs, how soon can they fix it? How can you be available to customers if there’s an outage?
A VoIP vendor should offer multiple ways to contact them for support. Why is this important? Think about it. If your only options are to call them, how can you do it if the phones don’t work in the first place? At the minimum, a provider should offer a handful of options for clients.
The next thing to consider is the knowledge and expertise of their support agents. When you contact them about an issue, they should be able to resolve your queries. It’s all very well to have multiple ways to contact them but there is no point if they cannot solve the problem.
Businesses should also consider responsiveness. How quickly does the vendor contact you about service outages or maintenance schedules? Do you have to wait on hold to reach the right person? Customer support is vital because your business depends on having an efficient and effective communication system.
At VoIPstudio, we are confident that we can give you the best VoIP experience. So why not give us a try? You don’t even need a credit card to test drive VoIPstudio. Sign up for a 30-day free trial today!
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