This article first appeared on Best in UC.
Every business is looking for ways to save a buck these days. For small and mid-sized businesses that haven’t yet made the leap, it may be time to embrace voice over IP (VoIP).
Why abandon your existing phone system? Easy:
- You will save money, not just now but into the future.
- You will simplify future phone maintenance, lowering costs of ownership.
- Your employees will be more productive.
But before you can realize these incredible cost savings and productivity enhancements, you need two things: an IP phone system and a VoIP service provider. Today, we’ll talk about the characteristics of a good VoIP service provider. First, let’s explore the basics of VoIP.
Traditional telephone networks are inherently inefficient. Because they were designed specifically for voice traffic, circuit-switched phone networks require a channel for each individual phone – even when it’s not in use. As a result, the network’s bandwidth is not being well-utilized.
In contrast, VoIP relies on a combined network for both voice and data communications. Internet Protocol (IP) integrates voice traffic into the company’s network, and bandwidth can be managed more effectively.
Some companies now specialize in providing VoIP service specifically for businesses. Choosing the right provider is key, since network problems can lead to poor call quality or – worse – phone network downtime. Before you buy, make sure you learn about the following:
- Quality of service. Businesses need business-class voice quality. This means there should not be disruptions such as jitter or echoes, much less dropped calls. Ensure that voice traffic receives a higher priority than other data on the network.
- Call rates. Here is where the rubber meets the road with VoIP. Shop the various calling plans for the best rates. By choosing the right provider, you can customize your phone service to create major savings. For example, some VoIP calling plans offer free international calls, free calls to certain countries and other money-saving options.
- Scalability. Look for a service provider that can grow with your business, easily adding and removing phone lines without hassles and penalties. Portability may be important for your company as well.
- Toll-free and local phone numbers. A growing number of VoIP providers allow clients to set up custom phone numbers. For example, you might have a local phone number in Chicago that rings your office in Los Angeles. You also need the ability to set up 800 numbers in the future.
- Customer support. Don’t assume that a VoIP provider has reliable customer service that is always available. Make sure there is real-time, 24×7 customer service available from real people. Test them by e-mailing or calling in the middle of the night or at peak business hours.
- Security and backup. It’s critical that your VoIP service provider has built-in redundancy and high-level security. Ask the company to explain its disaster plan.