One of the mainstays of any business is communication. It is true that investing in a telecommunications system that is loaded with all advanced features is not within everyone’s reach. However, modern telephone systems are changing the way the telecommunications systems work and even those businesses that choose to work on small budgets can take advantage of advanced features at a much cheaper rate. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems allow users to have facilities such as conference calls, call transfers to specific telephone numbers, caller ids, auto attendant, etc., Phone systems can connect to branches that may be located in any part of the world using a reliable Internet connection.
VoIP services are becoming widely used by businesses and there are many service providers that have different features on offer. There are so many players in the market that it becomes to choose from among them. This article provides a brief idea on how to choose the best VoIP provider from the ones that are present and have different benefits to offer.
VoIP Service Providers – Hosted or On-Premise
First and foremost, there are two main factors that have to be considered when choosing a VoIP service provider: whether you want to opt for a hosted solution or an on-premise VoIP solution.
Hosted VoIP Solution
In the case of hosted solution the set-up is managed by a third-party firm which may be local phone service provider. The business is connected to the host system through Internet. As there are many players in the market offering hosted solutions, it is possible to get some good deals. There are many advantages to using a hosted system. Some of the salient points are:
- The start-up of the system is easy and quick
- Clients can be added without much complication to the network
- Hosts that provide technologically advanced systems do regular upgrades and therefore the client gets to use the latest technology.
- However, switching to another new provider may not be an easy job.
- Typically, businesses relying on a hosted system pay a monthly charge on a per user basis.
- You configure and set up your system through your computer.
- If your system goes down you have to rely on the service provider to get it going again.
When you want a hosted solution, given below are some points to be kept in mind that will help you to choose a VoIP service provider.
Prepared for Redundancy
It is important to find a company that is prepared for emergencies of any kind so that data loss is a worry. They should have made enough investments in redundancies to be fully prepared.
Choose a service provider that is concerned about high quality. Certain service providers offer an integrated data and voice network service and it may happen that voice packets are given priority over data packets.
Administration Capability Evaluation
Before engaging the company, it is important to evaluate both the client and administration portals. The functions need to be tested for ease of making any type of moves or additions.
The Service Level Agreement should be thoroughly understood before signing on a service provider. It should be seen to it that the career class reliability should equate to 99.999% which translates for an annual downtime of only 5.26 minutes at a maximum.
Some of the questions that can be asked of the hosted service provider to get the best Business VoIP deal are as follows:
- For how long have you betting setting up business VoIP connections?
- Do you provide on-site installation and training after deployment?
- What is the startup cost? What are the recurring costs?
- Will we be provided with an exact quote including all taxes and fees?
- Can my current numbers be held as they are?
- What will the cost of porting these numbers?
- Do you provide a satisfaction guarantee or a trial window period?
- What are the features that will be included? What are the extra features that can be got at a cost? What are the different pricing levels?
- What happens if there is a problem with my Internet connection? Will my calls be rerouted automatically in that case or should I contact the service provider?
- Do you provide user as well as management portals?
- Do you offer equipment on a rental basis?
The hosted system is therefore best suited for those businesses that are growing, does not have enough staff to manage a VoIP system, and those working on a fixed business budget. It is good for businesses that function from multiple locations and want all their functions from one platform.
On-Premise VoIP Solution
If your choice is an on-premise VoIP system, you should procure all the necessary hardware and software yourself. In such a case all the communications internal to your business ends up being managed by you and no third party is involved. However, external calls can be either over the Internet using Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) or go through the traditional phone lines. The SIP calls are musch like those of a hosted service. If there are fewer lines, this may end up being a costlier option than a hosted service because of the extra costs for the hardware and software and their maintenance charges. However, if your business is large with many extensions, this works out to be a cheaper option. Your IT staff will be responsible to handle all the repair, maintenance and upgrades of the system. However, you will always be in complete control of the service.
On-premise system is best suited for your business in case it is a business with compliance and regulatory requirements that may be difficult to meet if there is third-party involvement like a hosted/ cloud-based VoIP system.
Before opting for a VoIP service provider, it is important to get a professional to assess whether your network is VoIP enabled (whether your switch and router are VoIP ready) and there is sufficient bandwidth for your Internet connection so that it will support VoIP.