How to Select the Best of the Business VoIP Providers
January 24, 2013
By Susan J. Campbell
, TMCnet Contributing Editor
Not long ago, service providers were touting the benefits associated with VoIP to encourage businesses to migrate their legacy phone systems to Internet-based communications. Thousands of companies followed suit as the benefits associated with business VoIP were real and measurable.
As the industry has evolved, however, new business VoIP providers and solutions have entered the mix. While this lowers prices and makes for some very attractive offers, it can also make it that much more of a challenge to select the optimal solution to fit the specific environment. Going into it blindly can cripple the purchasing manager or small business owner, demanding the creation of a clear strategy before beginning the search.
Fortunately, a recent GetVoIP.com blog highlights some of the crucial factors to consider when building out this strategy. The first point included should be obvious, but can be easily overlooked: will the hosted PBX (News - Alert) support the needs of the business? It’s important at the beginning of strategy development to clearly identify the needs of the organization today, as well as anticipated needs tomorrow. This includes the communication “needs” and the potential “wants.”
The strategy should also clearly indicate bandwidth needs. This demands close attention to current communications trends, including the number of lines, the number of users, the number of calls made on a daily basis and the amount of data traversing the network. Decision makers need to remember that when voice and data are going to share the same communication line, bandwidth must be able to account for both traffic types. If bandwidth is not adequately forecasted, call quality will certainly suffer.
Flexibility in the solution and supported features is one of the benefits of business VoIP. The business VoIP providers delivering the solution should promote both concepts while also offering 24x7 support. Perhaps even more important is the availability of hands-on training upon deployment. User buy-in is critical to the success of any technology deployment and teaching employees how to use the system properly and how it streamlines their daily tasks is important to overall success.
Decision makers should also pay attention to ownership when deploying a business VoIP solution. Do they own the local and toll-free numbers or are they owned by the VoIP provider? If the latter is true, it’s that much more difficult for the business to make a change in the event the service and support is less than stellar. This can be a branding nightmare or lock the business into a solution that really doesn’t match their needs.
At the same time, it’s important that business VoIP providers own their own technology. This ensures more control and investment in the equipment compared with those who rely on another supplier. Too many players can increase the risk of problems with the solution – a risk most business owners or decision makers aren’t willing to take.
Finally, the decision maker must decide between a hosted PBX or a managed PBX. The former delivers all of the functions and features available in the standard PBX without the deployment of the hardware on site. The managed PBX condenses the networks to allow for more thorough management and control of the business’s IP box. This option allows for deep integration between the IP box and the WAN and LAN to support more features and services.
As noted in this GetVoIP.com piece, the right option really depends on the needs of the business, pointing to the importance of that strategy. When needs are clearly defined, the right solution is easier to find.
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Edited by Rachel Ramsey