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VoIP Shopping Guide

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is fast becoming the standard mode of communication for modern businesses. The ability to have voice communications working together with other parts of your businesses data communication networks, reductions in cost, and the attraction of increased productivity and customer service have made the migration to VoIP popular among businesses.

Once your organization has made the decision to migrate to VoIP, there are many factors to consider in making the right choice of vendor and finding features to suit your business. Unified communications are the way forward for modern businesses and taking time to evaluate what is available on the market will ensure you have a seamless migration to the new system.

How Does VoIP Work?

VoIP is a technology that is becoming increasingly popular among businesses and is potentially going to change and replace traditional phone networks. VoIP works by taking a standard traditional telephone analog signal and turning it into a digital signal that can then be transmitted over the internet. By connecting your telephone into a dedicated adapter, you can make telephone calls over the internet.




Editor’s Note: Looking for information on VoIP Phone Systems? Use the questionnaire below and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need:



VoIP telephone calls can also be made directly via a computer using software and a headset. It is also possible to use VoIP via wireless, making it ideal for businesses that have staff that are always on the move. VoIP also allows for video conference calls, has the ability to send voicemail messages to a mobile phone for easy access, and offers easier communication between members of an organization.

There are a number of options you can use when it comes to VoIP. You can implement VoIP using the standard telephones and fax machines already present in your organization and connecting them to a device called an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA). This adapter converts your analog telephone signal into a digital one that can then be transmitted over the internet. This method will allow you to make the switch to VoIP almost instantly.

Another method is the use of IP phones. IP phones are special telephones that are similar to traditional telephones but do not need an ATA adapter to connect to the internet in order for you to make calls. An IP phone will usually connect directly to your router and is available in both wired and wireless models. Features of an IP phone include the ability to have multiple lines as well as functions such as call transfers or call holding.

You can also install software on your computer and use a headset to make and receive telephone calls on your PC or laptop, transfer calls or put them on hold, or make video conference calls.

VoIP Positives

Perhaps the biggest attraction of VoIP for businesses is the fact that the service is significantly cheaper than traditional telephone services. There is less hardware to purchase or lease or no hardware at all if you chose to use a hosted service. VoIP services also generally tend to be contract free and offer low monthly subscription fees. The cost saving is even more pronounced for larger organizations that have staff in different parts of the world, as they can communicate for free over in-house data networks.

When using hosted services, you have the added advantage of having dedicated apps that allow your staff to make and receive calls while on the road. These can be tied in simultaneously with the phones in your offices or act as standalone extensions.

Most VoIP services will offer a lot more features than traditional phone lines. In addition to all the basic features you get from traditional telephone services, VoIP can offer virtual receptionists and automated greeting functionalities as well as the ability to forward calls to staff members’ mobile phones or emails at a fraction of the cost you’d pay for having these additional functions added to your traditional phone line. Your staff will also be able to collaborate easily through voice and video chat, web conferencing, and instant messaging, all from a single and easy to use interface.

VoIP Negatives

One of the biggest drawbacks of using VoIP is the systems’ reliance on the internet and electricity. If any of these fail then your VoIP system will not work. There are workarounds such as configuring the system to automatically reroute any calls to voicemail or mobile telephones, but until the lost internet or power connection comes back on, you will not be able to make or receive calls.

Another disadvantage is that although the quality of VoIP telephone calls matches that of traditional phone lines, this is dependent upon the quality of your network. An inadequate network can seriously impact the quality of your VoIP audio and in some cases result in dropped calls altogether.

Connecting to mobile phones or special lines can sometimes incur more charges than a normal telephone line, although this depends on your service provider. International calls and calls to countries with below standard internet services can also affect the quality and integrity of your calls. The work-around for this may be to maintain a traditional phone line for these types of calls if your organization tends to handle foreign calls to such countries frequently.

Evaluating VoIP Service Providers

Once you have decided to implement VoIP, the first step is to evaluate the different service providers and the services that they offer. There are two main types of service options to choose from. Hosted VoIP services are the most commonly used by small and medium sized businesses. This is where the service provider hosts and manages your system externally. Once you decide if you want to purchase the compatible IP telephones or choose to lease them from the provider, you’ll be ready to start using the system.

Rather than a hosted VoIP service, your organization may choose to purchase its own VoIP phone system and then have it installed on the premises. In this case, you will also need to decide whether to have your business or an outside contractor implement and maintain the system. If you choose this option, you will need to purchase additional equipment for your network as well as having backup systems and dedicated servers in place. You will also have to ensure that your network is capable of handling the extra data traffic, and if it’s not, you will want to upgrade your system for a successful integration.

Criteria to Use When Evaluating Service Providers

Other things to consider when evaluating which service provider to go with include cost, reliability, and the features they have available. Hosted services normally require set-up and activation fees which can range from anything between $500 and $1,000. That being said, hosted VoIP services offer small to medium sized businesses access to top-end services that would otherwise only be afforded by larger organizations. It is worth checking to see which providers offer better reliability and backup features as part of their standard service. As internet speeds become faster and more reliable, most providers will be able to offer acceptable standards of reliability to your business.

Service providers should also have additional services and features readily available. One of the advantages of VoIP is that features can be added to your telephones quickly and easily without the need for a visit from a technician. Check which features the provider can offer you and what the extra costs may be. As your business’ needs grow, or as additional features are developed, the service provider should be able to upgrade your service easily.

Some of the features available to those using VoIP services include call queuing and remote office features whereby staff in separate locations can still function as part of the main office seamlessly. Other features available include PC calling, where calls can be made or taken via personal computers, or setting up a call center to cater to the different departments in your organization such as sales, marketing, or customer service.

VoIP also supports faxing and this can easily be integrated into each staff member’s inbox. VoIP will also enable you to forward calls to staff members regardless of their location. Check with the service provider to see how many of these features are offered and what the costs for each will be. This will then give you a clearer picture of which provider will offer your business the best value for your money.

Maintaining the Infrastructure

Maintenance of the system is critical when using VoIP. If you choose a hosted service, your service provider will generally maintain the system for you on an ongoing basis at their location, which can save you time and money. If you choose to have your own system on your business premises, you may want to shop around for someone who can be readily available to maintain your system or have a staff member trained and ready to maintain the system for your organization. Either way, there are still cost savings to be made when compared with the maintenance costs of a traditional phone line.

Another important factor to consider is the customer service offered by the provider. The level of support offered by a provider is crucial to how well your business adopts the new system. There may be some difficulty in knowing whether the company you choose is any good, but a little research may help you find the answer. Make sure that the provider you choose to go with offers year round service and maintenance with minimum disruption to your company’s data communications. The speed of their response to your queries and how well they maintain their network is crucial to your success.

The same criteria also applies when considering any additional features that your system may need in the future. Check to see whether any upgrades come as part of your package or if they will end up costing extra. The total cost of your service plan can depend on the number of elements that your host controls. Most business VoIP providers offer competitive plans and can offer you tailor made plans, so shopping around is essential to getting the best deal for your business.

Conclusion

When evaluating which provider to use for your VoIP service, you will have to factor in the total costs of getting the service up and running. Initial start-up costs will vary with the size of the system you will require, IP phones will need access to electricity, and you will also need to implement a software system for your network that gives priority to your voice data. You may also need to pay for an evaluation of your network to establish whether it can support the additional amount of data that your network will be handling.

Your business will also need to compare the ongoing operational costs of the different VoIP services available. Do a thorough investigation of service providers in order to weed out any hidden costs that may not be mentioned in the initial quotes. You may also want to factor in whether you will need one of your staff members to manage the service or if this is something a service provider can manage for you.

It is also important to check the security features offered by each vendor and determine if they charge for this. Most providers take security seriously and should offer an acceptable level of firewall security as part of your standard service. One way to measure this is by gauging the advice they give you on how you can maintain a secure network for your VoIP on your side of the service.

Lastly, you will need to do your research among businesses of your size that are already using VoIP services, as this can help you to determine where to spend your firms’ money. By doing all of the above and evaluating providers diligently, you can make a seamless transition to VoIP and see a return on your investment with improved functionality in your customer service as well as employee collaboration and productivity.




Editor’s Note: Looking for information on VoIP Phone Systems? Use the questionnaire below and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need:



About Johnson Hur

After having graduated with a degree in Finance and working for a Fortune 500 company for several years, Johnson decided to follow his passion by embarking on a path to the digital world. He has over 8 years of experience with large companies setting marketing strategy.

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