10 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a VoIP Service Provider

Posted by Christina Aguglia on 7/22/16 10:50 AM

It's time, you're finally going to update your legacy system. You're ready to make the jump to VoIp but there's so much you need to know. With so many functional and financial advantages offered by VoIP, selecting a service is one of the most critical and difficult IT decisions your company is going to face.

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Whether you're dissatisfied with your current provider or are getting ready to make the switch to VoIP, asking these critical questions will help clarify your needs when comparing VoIP providers.

1. Will you be using PBX phone numbers that are currently in use, or will it be necessary to purchase additional numbers?

PBX refers to traditional phone systems. Many VoIP solutions allow you to use the PBX phone numbers you currently have in order to minimize the transition paints. The advantage of this is the capability to keep local phone numbers, even though area codes are of minimal relevance in VoIP.

If you do need to purchase additional phone numbers, VoIP providers are able to see you a new number form the area code of your choice. A new number probably won't be less expensive than purchasing a standard phone line, but a digital line offers much more flexibility for your company.

2. What are the total number of users and phone lines that will need to be incorporated into the VoIP system?

Your hardware and budget needs will be determined largely by how many employees will be using the system and the number of phone lines you need. Your current usage patterns will provide you with a guide, but the VoIP model provides cost-saving advantages and flexibility like no other.

A VoIP system lets a single phone number handle several outgoing calls at one time- meaning you need less numbers. Many VoIP providers do place limitations on outgoing calls based on which plan you select, so it is important to research those policies to select a plan that will match your usage patterns. Take a look at how many employees you have, how many of them use the phone simultaneously, and the total volume by minutes per month. For most companies, the end results is that they will require fewer phone lines after switching to a VoIP system. 

3. What is the volume of communications and where will employees be making calls?

You need to consider where your employees make phone calls when transitioning to VoIP- and where they would ideally make calls. Knowing this will essentially shape your hardware investments. Are the calls happening on the go outside the office, or from their desk? 

Luckily, the majority of VoIP solutions available to you today offer mobile applications allowing users to use the network from their smart phones. However, even if a vast majority of users are using smart phones to connect, you will probably still need an IP phone that has conferencing capabilities.

4. How much time does the IT team have to manage a VoIP system?

Managing a VoIP network can still be time-consuming process. Quality of Service needs to be carefully monitored, problems resolved, and traffic patterns analyzed- just naming a few of the duties. 

Your IT team needs to carefully consider the amount of time they can devote to these tasks, and be able to delegate the duties appropriately. It is critical to measure metrics for proper management, you will need to have systems in place for quantifying the most important performance metrics. Keep in mind that VoIP technology is complex that may require the IT team to have additional training, purely depending on the expertise of the team members. If you know your company lacks the capacity necessary for the management of a VoIP network, maybe consider a hosted VoIP solution.

5. Does cloud integration make sense for your VoIP solution?

Lots of IT functions are moving to the cloud nowadays- with VoIP being no exception. With cloud computing, remote servers replace on-premises networks and services. Cloud saves money and eliminates the problems associated with the in-house servers.

Utilizing the cloud as part of VoIP solutions means your provider's servers will take over all functions involved with transmitting and receiving calls over the network. So instead of your network relying on a single network, the servers hosting your company's network are spread out on multiple servers. Depending on factors within your business, like size and security need, you may utilize a private or public cloud.

The terms used to refer to this type of service include: cloud-hosted PBX, virtual PBX, cloud PBX, hosted PBX, and many other variations.

6. Will we need to invest in any new hardware, and if we do what's our budget for the investments?

Implementing a VoIP solution often requires hardware investments. Some devices you may need to purchase include:

  • IP phones
  • Phone accessories
  • VoIP headsets for computer station use
  • PBX appliances
  • VoIP routers
  • VoIP adapters
  • VoIP gateways
  • IP cameras

Take inventory of your existing hardware and determine if any additions will be needed for implementing a VoIP network successfully. Your provide will more than likely be able to sell you the equipment directly, or you can purchase hardware through VoIP equipment retailers. 

7. How much do we value call speed and quality, and what are we will to pay to get it? 

The trade-offs between quality, cost, and speed is at the heart of VoIP deployment. All calls rely on an Internet connection. Of course, connecting to the internet is not free, making you need the server space to handle uploading and downloading calls. utilizing a faster speed will minimize lag time, but it can be pretty costly. The quality of the call also comes with a price. 

As a company, you need to determine what kind of call speed and quality you think you will require. Try not to go to slow. We all know how frustrating it is being on a phone call with long delays. This is where voice compression tools are useful in promoting greater efficiency. When utilizing this, each call will require less space without sacrificing much of the quality. 

8. How much will we be spending with this VoIP provider, and are there any hidden costs?

A majority of VoIP users are excited with the cost savings they will be enjoying, only to encounter an unpleasant surprise when they receive their first bill. Make sure to read your service provider's policies carefully. Hidden fees may include:

  • Disconnect fees
  • Faxed pages above pre-set limit
  • Per-minute charges above pre-set maximums
  • Fees for calling 911

Research your options thoroughly as some providers are more aggressive with hidden fees than others.

9. What training and customer support does this provider offer?

There is a learning curve for VoIP users, you want to know ahead of time if your VoIP service provider is going to provide employee training- and if they are going to charge you for that. Many providers offer free online training, but in-person training is usually an additional cost.

Find out what ongoing technical support you are entitled to. Providers normally offer some form of support, but it varies widely in terms of availability, terms, and conditions. Check to see if you are missing any hidden fees. 

10. We need to end the contract early, how in the world do we do this? 

If worse comes to worse, you may need to terminate the contract early. Most providers will have some termination fee. Some providers even require that you request termination a month or more ahead of time. Knowing this information allows you to make an informed decision if termination is on the table.

Look into using a pay-as-you-go service to circumvent the hassles of contract termination. Keep in mind that this may be more expensive in the short-term. 

At the end of the day, a service provider should act as a helpful guide, not an opposing force. There is no magical formula for choosing the right VoIP provider, but asking and answering these questions can help you jump-start the process. Look for reliability and transparency in your provider. 

 

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Topics: VoIP, Telephony, Hosted VoIP