Businesses rely on telecommunications, but not all businesses have been able to enjoy the luxury of a telecommunications system that is loaded with features due to the price. New technologies are allowing this to change, and even small business owners on tight budgets can take advantage of great telecommunications. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) systems are allowing all businesses to have conference calls, direct internal dialing, extensions with transfers, auto attendants, and more. Branch offices can now be part of the phone network, and branches can be anywhere as long as there is high-speed Internet access.
Choosing a service provider can be challenging though, as there are so many, and they all offer different benefits. To help you decide, you can find reviews and comparisons about various providers on WhichVoIP.com. Read on to learn more about choosing the best VoIP service provider.
Hosted or On-premise VoIP Solutions?
You have two main options when choosing a VoIP solution. Hosted solutions are located and managed by a third-party company (maybe even your local phone company). Your business will connect to this host through the Internet. You can get some good deals with this option, because there are hundreds of different providers in the US alone competing for your business. It doesn’t cost much to add incremental clients to your network, and start-up is quick. One of the biggest benefits is that most hosts do regular network upgrades, so you always work with the latest technology. A disadvantage is that it can be difficult to switch to a different provider, and it may cost quite a bit to get specialized applications, such as applications for call centers.
If you choose to go with a hosted solution, you need to know how to choose the best provider. Some of the things you should do include:
- Request Redundancy – Find a company that has invested in redundancies and is prepared for emergencies so you don’t have to worry about lost data.
- Demand Quality – Choose a provider that offers high quality service, and that makes it a priority to help ensure that your internal network and Internet connection are ready for voice packets. Some providers offer an integrated voice and data service that can result in voice packets being prioritized over data on a private network.
- Evaluate Administration – Ask for a demo account and check out both the administrator and user portals. Play around with the menus and determine how easy (or difficult) it will be to make any adds, moves or changes.
- Understand the SLA – There should be a service-level agreement (SLA) as part of your deal with the provider. Look for statements on carrier class reliability or five nines (99.999%) availability that equates to the network being down for less than 5.26 minutes per year.
If you choose an on-premise VoIP system, you buy the VoIP hardware and software yourself, so all internal communications are managed by you and not a third party. There are two options for external calls. They can go over regular phone lines, or through SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) trunks, which route the calls through the Internet. SIP trunk call costs are similar to that of a hosted service, but remember, you will also incur the costs of the hardware and software resulting in a much higher cost per extension, plus you will have to pay extra for a maintenance contract. Larger companies with more extensions may however find that this is actually the cheaper option, as opposed to paying an ongoing fixed cost per extension with a hosted service.
Connecting to the Internet
No matter what type of system you ultimately choose, you will still need to have a connection to the Internet, either through the phone company or an Internet provider. You will potentially need to increase bandwidth, and it is often wise to opt for an integrated and redundant solution to ensure high call quality.