VoIP Services from the Cloud – 3 More Questions to Ask a Potential VendorPosted on: 2017-02-20 | Categories: VoIP Services
Moving your phone service to the cloud can be a bit scary, especially if you run a small business. How much will it cost? Is it worth the hassle of switching over? Would it actually help my business? These are just a few questions running through your mind. It’s true that embarking on a big change can be a tough road, but purchasing cloud services isn’t fraught with obstacles like most other transitions.
The VoIP industry has come a long way since its first shaky start. Now you don’t have to guess how much bandwidth you need or how many lines. You don’t have to know the underlying technology or be able to fix problems on your own. Your hosted VoIP vendor will take care of all that for you.
But selecting a good cloud VoIP vendor from the myriad of VoIP services out there is paramount. You don’t want to be stuck with a provider who doesn’t fit your needs, charges you an exorbitant price for the service or whose tech support is all but nonexistent. We’ve talked about the three questions to ask a potential vendor before:
- How much will it cost you?
- How secure is it?
- How reliable will it be?
These are not the only things to ask a provider. There are plenty of other aspects you should pay attention to as well. So here are 3 more questions to keep in mind before taking the plunge.
What VoIP Services Availability I Can Expect?
Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are a part of the contract you sign with the vendor when you purchase VoIP services. It lays out in plain terms what level of service you can expect from the provider. This is particularly important for providers of cloud services like hosted VoIP.
Your business depends on the vendor’s phone system being operational all the time. So what happens if they have an issue that takes hours or even days to resolve? What is the vendor’s responsibility towards your business? What kind of remediation can you expect? These are just a few of the questions that will be addressed in the SLA.
However, you should also be aware of how certain terms are calculated and what they mean. SLAs talk about uptime and downtime, so ask how they arrived at the various measures. Does downtime refer to scheduled maintenance or also unexpected problems? If a few lines are not working for you but the rest are, does it count as uptime? SLAs will also include compensation terms so make sure you and the vendor are on the same page regarding what this involves.
Will Your Service Adapt to my Business?
VoIP technology by nature is much more flexible than PSTN based phone systems. You don’t have to buy ‘bundles’ or predetermined sessions. You can purchase just what you need when you need it. But it’s not just about meeting your needs today. Tomorrow your requirements may change drastically and your vendor should be able to support those changes. The reality is that not all VoIP services offer the same level of flexibility or ability to scale. It depends on the vendor’s implementation and business model.
A provider may just offer a few pre-set plans that cannot be changed. You can switch between plans but you can’t customize what you get with each. Some vendors may be hampered by constraints imposed by their own infrastructure. Maybe they can support your business up to 50 employees but not more than that. If your business looks set to grow more than that in a couple of years, this vendor won’t be a good fit. So look at where your company will be in 5 years and ask if the provider can support future growth or expansion.
What Happens if I Run into Issues?
Any technology or business process is going to have problems – whether it is in the equipment, software or service. It is inevitable that sooner or later you will run into issues that need troubleshooting or you need help with. This is where customer support comes in. You never the value of support systems until you need them. You need to know if a provider will be responsive or not in times of emergency. When your business is in trouble because the phones aren’t working, will your vendor step up?
You will need customer support in 3 key areas – technical troubleshooting, billing and service issues, training and help for users. Ask the vendor about their system for handling support requests, the availability of their customer support teams (phone timings, 24×7 live chat) and what resources they have for users to learn the ins and outs of the VoIP service.
Only when you are satisfied with the answers to these questions should you consider a particular provider. It may seem tedious now but it will save you trouble down the line!