As a follow up to my post last week on the Basics of Hosted VoIP, I wanted to take a moment to discuss some of the considerations that your business should make when transition from traditional POTS or on-premise phone system to Hosted VoIP. Like any cloud-based technology, there are a few things to keep in mind before rushing into it:
1) You Will Most Likely Need New Phones
Phones that are compatible with Hosted VoIP services are not your run of the mill telephone that you can pickup at Walmart. VoIP requires special phone models that are usually offered by manufacturers like Polycom, Cisco, Grandstream, or Snom. The bad news is that in some cases, your office may require some rewiring to support phones of this type, so you may want to check into that before diving into Hosted VoIP. The good news is that virtually all Hosted VoIP services operate their networks using the same standards, so your phones can readily be reconfigured to work with a different provider should you ever need to make a switch.
2) Reliable Internet Access is an Absolute Must
With Hosted VoIP, there’s a very simple equation: No internet = No phone. Make sure you have a good reliable connection with sufficient bandwidth to support all of the users in your organization. Many customers choose to have a secondary Internet connection to carry VoIP phone calls or as a failover connection in the event that their primary connection goes down. Some users try to skimp on this requirement, but are quickly disappointed when the call drops during that critical meeting or when the folks on the other end can’t hear you properly.
3) Quality of Service is Important; Make Sure Your Network is Ready
Because your voice communication is now competing for Internet access with all the other Internet based activities on your network, it is imperative that you a) have sufficient Internet bandwidth (see above) and b) have network devices (i.e. switches and routers) that will prioritize voice traffic travelling to and from your network. Voice communication is a real-time form of communication, so if your voice traffic does not flow properly, your conversations will sound jittery or chopped up.
4) The Number of Users Determines Your Costs
Hosted VoIP services are typically priced per user per month and often include unlimited local and long distance calling. There are a wide range of prices out there, but we like to see it between $19.99 and $29.99/month per user. Most companies have some form of volume pricing established, so as you grow you will get a break on the per seat pricing. Unless you’re a really large organization, expect that for every user you add that your bill will go up commensurately. If you are a big company, some providers can provide low cost per seat pricing with a pooled set of minutes to use across the organization. Make sure to know your options and match that with the type of organization that you have.
5) In My Books Software is King
Maybe I’m biased because I’m considered a “techy”, but I think its increasingly important that your Hosted VoIP vendor provide you a solid and constantly evolving software platform. Let’s face it, making a phone call, is making a phone call is making a phone call. What really will separate your business from the pack is if your vendor provides innovates software features that match up with the increasingly mobile world we live in. Mobile device apps, business SMS, softphones, and Outlook integration are just a handful of the things that I like to see, but you should take a moment to survey the market to find what ‘cool’ things you might be missing out on.
Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion or rest, or the tendency of an object to resist any change in its motion.
Microsoft doesn’t know what to do with Windows. Or at least it doesn’t seem like Microsoft knows what to do with Windows. Microsoft’s greatest strength in the desktop market today is inertia. The dominance the company has built over the past 10-15 years as the de facto PC operating system for both business’ and consumers is because of this inertia. Since the release of Windows 95 has there been another feasible option? Mac OS of course provides a more than viable alternative but the fact is that Windows remained dominant and Mac OS was always a niche player.
Microsoft’s problem is that it’s a much different world now, and up until last year their flagship operating system was still stuck in 1996 where UI/UX was concerned. Microsoft didn’t have an answer to the question that tablets posed and they needed one badly so they created Windows 8; the operating system that would bring Windows squarely into 2012 and compete against not only Mac OS but more importantly iOS and Android. Windows biggest competitors were now mobile operating systems, the operating systems that came pre-installed on the smartphones and tables people purchased. Microsoft also felt the need to make one operating system that would work well on tablets and also on traditional desktops and laptops and created an operating system that unfortunately doesn’t work very well on either.
What’s interesting, is that the main issue that Windows 8 has in the marketplace isn’t one of functionality its one of familiarity. The way people use Windows hasn’t changed fundamentally since Windows 95; graphics get better, features more polished but at the core there’s always been a desktop with icons and a Start menu. Users are used to this, they expect that when they turn on their Windows PC they will see a desktop with icons and a Start menu, that hasn’t changed in almost 20 years, until now. Windows 8 isn’t familiar, which may be acceptable if a long time Windows user were to pick up a Windows tablet, but on the desktop people want what they’re used to. It wasn’t broken (at least not on the desktop) so why change it? Microsoft would argue that Windows 8 works equally well for tablet AND desktop users. A similar argument however could be made that while they may work equally well, they don’t work very well in either usage scenario, unless you are willing to do some tweaking. But users who’ve gotten used to interacting with iPhone’s, iPad’s and Android smartphones and tablets don’t expect to have to tweak, fiddle or tinker with their computer/device do get it to a place where they’re comfortable with it, they expect it to be comfortable and familiar from the minute they press the ON button. For those of us that don’t mind tweaking their PC’s Windows 8 is a great upgrade, but for the rest; where’s the incentive to leave the warm, familiar, comfortable, functional Windows 7/Vista/XP which they’re accustomed to? Especially when their desktop and laptop computers are probably now more than ever relegated to appliances that are only used to accomplish “work” tasks and most leisure activities have moved to smartphones, tables, set-top boxes or game consoles. Users want something that gets out of their way, they’ve spent the last 20 years learning how to use Windows and don’t want to have to do so again. Can you blame them?
Once a train starts moving and picks up speed, it’s very hard to stop it, it’s the reason Window’s gained its dominant market position and unfortunately for Microsoft it’s also the reason it’s so hard for them to adapt to the rapidly changing PC or should I say PCD (personal computing device) landscape. The inertia isn’t Microsoft’s directly but rather a result of the expectation they’ve created in their users by not making any significant changes to Windows UI/UX over the past 20 years. Now that major change has come with Windows 8 and users want to continue along the same track they’ve been travelling these past two decades. Microsoft now has the challenge of stopping this train or at the very least changing its course.
This past Saturday (June 29th, 2013), the Invizio team dropped in at the Urban League of Broward County for the 3rd Annual Business & Leadership Conference hosted by the Jim Moran Institute of Florida State University. As sponsors of the exhibit hall we were on hand to answer many of the questions that attendees had about many of the emerging trends in small business technology. BYOD, Hosted VoIP, cloud email and the age old Mac vs PC questions were among the topics that came up during our time there. The entire team had an amazing time hearing Dr. Germaine Smith-Baugh talk about Organization Reinvention and many of the conference speakers discuss everything from Business Financing to Online Marketing.
We’d like to give a special shout out to Jennifer Kovach, the South Florida Outreach Coordinator of the Jim Moran Institute for showing us a great time and putting on a wonderful event.