Voice over Internet protocol, VoIP, has grown and improved over the years, and it's now a viable choice for many firms. Quality has improved dramatically, and many businesses rely on this system not only for voice, but also video conferencing. Before you use VoIP, be sure you have a broadband large enough to handle both data and voice traffic.
When reviewing business VoIP, don't compare it with regular free Internet services - you'll be comparing apples and oranges. The quality of service of a business class solution is much better and reliable than the free/almost free personal online services available online.
Questions to consider when comparing business VoIP are listed below:
Do you prefer hosted or in-house services?
Many firms prefer in-house services for VoIP because they have the expertise to maintain the system and troubleshoot it. Other businesses opt for hosted service setups, where the exchange phone system is located off-premises and is maintained by a VoIP provider. When comparing VoIP business services, be sure that you’re comparing similar types of service, so that you can make a sensible decision.
What are your needs?
Write down your needs regarding VoIP, including decrease of international calls expenses, more flexibility in set up new employees, easy and cheap conference calling and any other specific needs you may have. Don't forget call-waiting, voice mail and other needs that may not be met by your local phone service. Talk to your office manager and IT person to get a better idea about your needs. Once the list is done, you will have a basis to compare the systems and not forget anything important.
How to research VoIP systems and providers?
You can conduct research by looking at magazines and online. Visit VoIP providers' websites and see if they have handled situations similar to yours. Oftentimes these sites offer white papers and other information about services that can make you quite educated in VoIP. Beware that these websites are biased and designed to convince you to use their services. So, you should also check out other publications, online or in-print, such as Internet Telephony, Fortune, Business Week, Forbes and other more objective reviews of VoIP systems and providers.
How providers handle 911 calls?
This issue is one of those services you hope to never have to use, but then, you never know…VoIP can be used anywhere, including wireless mode, and when there is an emergency, the dispatcher may not know where you are located. If you have remote offices and they have an emergency, you want to make sure that the call is routed to the correct location. Check out how providers handle this issue -- they may use different ways to identify your employees locations.
What else should you consider?
- Ask for referrals and when comparing providers. Google their names and see what information you get to make sure they have good reputations.
- Contact the Better Business Bureau online or on the phone and inquire about any complaints against the firms you're comparing.
- Ask to test-drive their VoIP systems before you decide on one. Make sure to use it at your peak time and look for quality degradation.
VoIP is here to stay and you may as well take advantage of it. Business class service utilizes the latest technology, which is reliable, flexible and simple. Maybe in the future you will be interested in video conferencing, and VoIP allows you to do that upgrade easily. Say goodbye to your old phone company and get onboard with VoIP.