Phones became a staple of business almost immediately after their invention because of the way they revolutionized communication. Since then, the Internet has revolutionized business communication even further through voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP. VoIP technology allows businesses to replace analog phone lines with broadband Internet connections, enabling users to make calls directly from computers, specialized VoIP phones or mobile devices through the use of WiFi hot spots.
A hosted VoIP system is a variant of traditional VoIP technology where the hardware and private branch exchange (PBX) is hosted at an off-site location like the VoIP provider’s data center. The benefits of the hosted VoIP model compared to on-premise VoIP are…
- Lower — even no — setup costs
- The system counts as OpEx as opposed to CapEx
- No setup or installation requirements — the provider takes care of this for you
Hosted VoIP systems offer businesses a more cost effective, feature-rich alternative to traditional phone systems. But, as with any technology investment, there are a variety of potential pitfalls in making a hosted VoIP investment.
To help you avoid these pitfalls, here are four main considerations for choosing the best hosted VoIP solution for your business:
Read the Fine Print
Probably the most attractive feature of hosted VoIP systems is their relative cost-effectiveness compared to traditional telephone systems or even on-premise PBX. However, it’s critical to keep in mind that there may be additional “hidden” surcharges or fees that aren’t immediately obvious. Unfortunately, the practice of hitting customers with hidden fees and surcharges is all too common in the telecom industry. For this reason, it’s essential that businesses take the time to read the fine print and ensure that they are only getting charged for services they will need and use. For example, some providers might not include out-of-network calls in their “unlimited calling” offering, or some may charge you an additional fee for every extra caller joining a call. If you already have a VoIP provider, and are unsure about whether you’re paying too much, it’s wise to comb through billing statements on a regular basis. Don’t “set and forget” your bills — review line items carefully.
Be Mindful of Porting Nuances
The porting process, or overlap period, is another facet to consider when shopping for a hosted VoIP system. This is doubly true if you’re looking to switch providers. Keep in mind that the FCC mandates VoIP providers follow Local Number Portability (LNP) rules. According to VoIP Mechanic, as long as users remain in the same geographic area, LNP rules allow them to switch telephone service providers — including interconnected VoIP providers — without having to change phone numbers. This is great news for businesses staying within the same geographic area but may present challenges and extra costs for those porting numbers outside of the defined geographic area or local rate center. This is why it’s best to communicate upfront with new VoIP providers about expectations and limitations in the porting process.
Consider Overall Quality of Service
One of the most important considerations for selecting a VoIP provider is overall quality of service (QoS). Not all VoIP offerings are created equal, and not all VoIP offerings will deliver on promises made. For example, it’s important to understand the differences between providers with a bring-your-own-bandwidth stipulation versus those offering managed VoIP services using a private MPLS data network. Each model can lead to wildly different outcomes for reliability, audio clarity and cost. When looking for a potential provider, keep an eye on whether they offer an additional layer of call quality via managed routers or whether you’ll have to go into your pocket and ramp up bandwidth to make the solution work optimally.
Review a Provider’s History and Experience
Lastly, vetting a provider’s history in the VoIP space and their experience with installations, deployments and onboarding is critical to a successful hosted VoIP investment. VoIP offerings have been around a while, meaning there are plenty of players in the space. Naturally, no business wants to trust a disreputable source with control of their phone systems — the life-blood of their business. Performing background research on a potential provider will reveal their relative level of experience in providing high-quality VoIP services. When you’re unsure about the experience of a provider, it may be beneficial to consult with a third-party resource to gain unbiased insight. Having an outside resource may be just what you need to sufficiently evaluate providers in a saturated VoIP marketplace.
Choosing the best hosted VoIP system takes time and careful consideration, and isn’t a process that should be rushed. When in doubt, contact a neutral third party that knows the space and can offer objective insight into the evaluation process. Resellers, like Select Communications, not only give you an unbiased view of various VoIP offerings, they can also do side-by-side comparisons of providers and present you with an optimal choice for your needs without being beholden to one specific provider.