VoIP - What Questions to Ask and What to Know When Choosing a Service
The increase in popularity and demand of VoIP in businesses of all sizes raises questions to consider before integrating VoIP into your communications landscape. Here are some considerations and questions to ask yourself before making the switch to VoIP and selecting what options will suit your needs best.
With the hosted VoIP option, you gain access to the latest technologies and features while paying a (usually) lower fee per month for each phone that includes the phone features that normally are associated with a PBX system. Customers are able to pay less for the latest technology and features because they are leasing the equipment, not purchasing. This lower monthly leasing fee covers the cost of renting the equipment and available features from a chosen provider.
With the non-hosted VoIP option, a customer buys VoIP equipment directly from a dealer. The customer is then responsible for the set up and operation of their own phone system or has the option of allowing the dealer to maintain it. Management of all options (call forwarding, voice mail, hold music, conference calling, etc.) takes place either in-house or by a dealer under agreement.
Here are the main questions we are asked when speaking to businesses about which VoIP solution is best for their company…and the answers below:
Not unlike cellular service contracts, most VoIP providers charge monthly fees based on the customer’s needs and will ask for a standard commitment period. Some providers will offer free equipment based on contract length. You will want to ask about such things as the cost of equipment, cancellation fees, and contract length.
Be sure to find out about changes you may foresee in your equipment and services needs and if your contract can remain flexible as these change. Determine if changing your plan and/or equipment changes your contract dates. Be transparent if you are using VoIP for business purposes, as there may be a difference in rates.
Hidden and non-covered costs can add up. Find out what is included what is not covered under your monthly service plan. International calling and conference calling are available to you while using VoIP, but at what charge?
Talk with your prospective provider and let them know what equipment you are currently using. Determine if what you have currently will integrate with VoIP. Will IP phones and routers be needed or will your equipment be compatible? Will additional equipment need to be purchased or leased? If so, at what cost?
Currently, faxing over VoIP is temperamental, at best. If you rely heavily on faxing, maintaining a copper line may be in your best interest. If you are an occasional faxer of shorter documents, VoIP may suit your faxing needs, if your provider can support codecs that allow faxing capabilities. However, some fax machines may be too fast for VoIP and will need to be adjusted to work. Some providers offer solutions and workarounds that include faxing PDFs via email.
Initial hiccups in VoIP call quality were no secret. However, there has been much progress and improvement as VoIP strives to replicate the call quality of traditional landline phones. Discuss with your provider what they offer in terms of bandwith, equipment, and ATA/routers. Ask if the frequency of your current phones will interfere with the VoIP equipment. Address how weather conditions and the location of your hardware affect your overall call quality.
Is there 24 hour support? If not, are the support hours 8-6 EST or PST? Where are their support centers located? How long is an average call to support? What is the average time for issue resolution? Search for customer feedback online and check a potential provider’s ratings.
Of course your growth and expansion plans should factor into your decision making when choosing a provider that can work with you. Will you need new phone extensions down the road? Will your service level or contract length need to be expanded? Discussing these options before you commit to a contract is a necessity.
Along with your own growth, consider the growth of your provider as well. Get a sense of their overall viability and ensure you are selecting a provider that will still be around when you need them most. Keep in mind the lower end prices of a choosing a start-up company may not outweigh the benefit of going with a more trusted provider with a better projection of stability.
Offering 911 emergency services is a federal mandate, but this does not mean every provider currently provides a solution. It’s best to know you have these services in place before you need them.
Always consider the flexibility of the contract you commit to. What are the termination fees? Do they depend upon the length of time you were in the contract? If you are dissatisfied with your equipment and/or services or have an unforeseen reason to cancel your service, you will want to know up front what it will cost to terminate.
Careful consideration and asking the right questions can lead you to a more informed choice and help you make the most of your VoIP decision. VoIP can be a very effective business communications solution and can help you to work more efficiently. Make sure you have all the facts and answers to obtain a provider and terms most suited to your needs.
If you need help answering these and other questions, we can help. Contact us to discuss VoIP and we can put together a solution that fits your needs.