VoIP is the latest buzzword doing the rounds in telecom. You’ve probably heard a lot about VoIP vs PSTN recently, but the technology has been around for a while (since the 90s in fact). But recently the switch to VoIP systems has become a tidal wave. Hardly a minute goes by without yet another business deciding to upgrade. It appears that VoIP phone service has reached a tipping point.
There are few businesses – if any – who question the value of switching to VoIP. Even if you set aside all the other benefits, the cost savings alone are enough to convince most people. A business can see anywhere from 35% to 75% reduction in their phone bills, thanks to VoIP. The exact amount varies among organizations. But you are practically guaranteed to experience some savings.
The question facing most companies is not whether they should switch. But rather, how to manage the transition to completely new technology. Upgrading to VoIP can be a huge project depending on the size of your company and your business needs. Mistakes are likely to be made, it’s inevitable. However, a little bit of planning can help you avoid common errors.
So here’s a step-by-step guide for you to follow when switching to VoIP phone service.
You’ve decided to upgrade to VoIP for the entire office. The next step is to find a vendor, right? Wrong. There are a few things you should do before approaching any VoIP phone service provider.
Take a look around at your current system. Where does it fall short of fulfilling your expectations? What do you wish your phone system could do if you had no constraints? Make a list of all the features and tools you would like in your new phone service. At this stage, don’t look at the price or your budget.
Once you have your list, divided into two sections. The first part should have those features you cannot work without. These are tools that are essential to the day to day running of your business. If a vendor doesn’t offer a feature on this list, you should move on.
The second section will have the remaining features. These are nice to have items but not deal breakers. Some of these features are included in even basic plans. Others you might have to pay for. You can decide on a case-by-case basis if the feature is worth the price.
The biggest difference between landlines and VoIP is the fact that the latter uses your data network to route phone calls. This means your Internet connection should be fast enough for VoIP. Since voice calls happen in real-time, you cannot afford any delays.
On top of that, you should have available bandwidth for the extra traffic. If your current connection is barely able to cope with demand, there is no way can handle voice calls as well. You should also check all network equipment like modems, routers, switches, etc. Older equipment may not be able to handle VoIP. In that case, you may need to replace hardware or apply the latest updates/software patches as necessary.
A Google search for VoIP phone service will give you hundreds, if not thousands of results. You can find lists of the best vendors on various websites. Now your list of essential features and your budget come into play. With these two criteria in mind, make a list of vendors who offer services within your budget and include the features you need. Your list should have no more than a dozen providers. At this point, you can make a detailed comparison to select the best choice for your business.
Customer service is one of those things people forget about until they run into problems. But it is a crucial factor to consider when selecting a VoIP phone service provider. That’s because the phones are highly important to any organization. Imagine if the phones didn’t work for an hour or day in the middle of the week. Think of all the customers, revenue, and reputation you could lose! You want a provider who will be your partner, not just another supplier.
What can you expect when your phones stop working? You should be able to reach out to the vendor across multiple channels. When you do contact tech support, they should have an estimated time for the problem to be fixed. When you run into problems using the service, they should have resources like FAQs, tutorials, webinars, etc.
Treat VoIP phone service as any other Internet-based tool. The general security practices you follow for securing hardware and software like email applies to your phones as well. Since your vendor provides hosted VoIP phone service to your business, ask them about security measures. Consult them about things you can implement within your organization to protect the phones. Make sure the provider uses encryption, firewalls, and other protective measures.
Every business should have a backup plan for emergencies. For instance, you may have a secondary Internet connection for crucial services (like the phones!). Most businesses have a generator or other power backup options. Question your provider about their emergency plans as well. If their data center goes down, so do your phones. Do they have multiple centers in different regions? Can they automatically direct your calls to a landline/mobile phone if needed?
There are quite a few things you should not leave to the last minute. For instance, you should configure extensions and phone attendants or IVR systems correctly. If you don’t do this in advance, calls will not go where they are supposed to. Do you really want customers calling in to go to the wrong department or person? Make sure you configured important settings like hold music and call groups etc. as well.
No business wants to start over with a new phone number just because they switched to VoIP phone service. Initiate the porting process early on, so you’re not waiting for anything. Make sure to give the correct details to both service providers. In most cases, your new vendor should be able to complete the process without any problems. You will likely have a new service up and running within a few days. You can also buy new numbers with specific area codes from your VoIP phone service vendor.
Quality of Service (QoS) is very important in a hosted VoIP phone service. It refers to setting up your network equipment so that voice calls receive top priority. Things like packet loss, lag, jitter, and latency can seriously impact voice calls. Configuring QoS correctly is the key to high-quality voice calls on VoIP.
Don’t forget that your employees might need the training to become familiar with the new system. This is also something you cannot ignore until the last minute. Make sure everyone knows how to set up their accounts and use the phones. This is especially important for features like multi-device ring, hunt groups, group voicemail inboxes, and so on.
Do not disconnect your old service until you have tested the VoIP phone service under real-world conditions. Make sure every feature and tool is working as expected. It’s easy to forget about things like faxing in the transition. Check every feature, even if it’s only something you use rarely.
There is not much you need to do once your VoIP phone service is up and running. However, you should always keep an eye on things.
You have to monitor your system in real-time. Catch problems before they become huge issues. Continuous monitoring also means that you can identify anomalies (fraud, unusual traffic, dropped calls, etc.) and course-correct if needed.
Get feedback from your employees – the actual users of the system. Do they need any new features? Is everything working as they expect? One of the benefits of VoIP phone service is that you can easily switch providers. So if your current vendor is not meeting expectations, you can always change.
Most services allow you to generate reports and analyze collected data. You can get reports on usage, call quality, traffic patterns, and many other things. Analyzing the data can show you areas of improvement or things to change for the future.
As you can see, switching to a VoIP service provider is not complicated. Make sure to follow every step. Thoroughly research all your options before making any decision. With a bit of planning and forethought, it’s smooth sailing for your new VoIP phone service! VoIPstudio can help you find the service you’re looking for.
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