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.