For many business owners telephony costs are a constant headache and even more so in a country like South Africa where decades of monopolistic practice and government shareholding in the telecoms space has resulted in some of the highest rates in the world. A VOIP telephone service certainly seems like a great way to reduce those costs but unfortunately there are hundreds of hit and run VOIP providers in the market and if you are not careful you could end up burning your fingers by choosing the wrong voip service provider.
Hopefully these 10 tips to picking a business VOIP solution will help you pick the right voip phone company and not end up regretting your choice. Remember we are looking at VOIP providers here which specifically offer business solutions at the gateway level and not VOIP PBX or Home VOIP solutions.
1) Factor in your bandwidth costs as well. A reputable Business VOIP provider will not try ignore or hide this cost and will even offer you two rate options on request. A VOIP telephone service rate table should include two pricing options where bandwidth costs are either included or excluded.
2) You are looking for VOIP call solutions that work for your business and should insist on a proof of concept, signing a contract without testing the service is one of the worst things you can do. Make sure the VOIP phone company you are dealing with is happy to give you a POC trial of their services
3) Consider redundancy, ask you VOIP service provider how their VOIP solution handles redundancy and make sure that you are comfortable with their commitment to uptime and resolution of faults. A VOIP telephone service may not be as mature as traditional telco companies and downtime could destroy your business. Of course you should also consider your own redundancy and not rely on a single provider regardless of their promise to deliver and that goes for traditional telco companies as well.
4) Look forward and understand what VOIP capacity you will need in the future, it is important to understand the limits of the provider and how it will affect you down the line. Ensure that the VOIP solution you agree on will be suitable for your medium to long term growth goals and understand how their costing scales as well to make sure you won’t be ripped off as your business grows.
5) Remember that a VOIP provider may not disclose all costs up front, ask about the hardware requirements on your PBX, this is VERY important if you are not using a VOIP PBX since you will almost definitely need BRI/PRI/E1 cards to connect to the VOIP gateway and depending on your PBX provider could be a considerable cost, of course you will see an ROI on the investment but capital may not be readily available. You could of course make an arrangement with your voip telephone service to cover the cost for you.
6) Make sure that you understand the limitations of the voip solutions, even the best provider will have some limitations when comparing to a traditional telco. That is not because VOIP providers are not good enough but rather because we assume that the service offering is the same when in reality even a business VOIP solution is not designed to be a full replacement. The most common difference that comes up is Faxing, very few voice over IP companies will offer FAX over IP.
7) VOIP service providers may not be well established or may be after a quick buck. Ask the right questions and do your homework about the company. Ask about VOIP security, ask about redundancy, ask about a SLA and ask their clients about the service. Office VOIP can be a great way to save costs if you sign up with a good voice over ip provider. (RSA: Avoid VOIP over ADSL if your volumes will be high Fibre/Diginet is the way to go)
8) Consider keeping some traditional Telco infrastructure, if your VOIP solution fails you can fail over onto your regular phone lines and you may want to keep your old incoming numbers as well. Your VOIP service provider and PBX provider should be able to suggest the best balance and assist with all the required configuration
9) Beware of the salesman, regrettably VOIP in South Africa at least has become minefield with many companies operating hit and run models which could leave you in a lot of trouble if not cripple your business. Ignore their insistence on selling you a PBX, Network, Printer and House you most likely don’t need any of these things to get cheaper phone calls
10) VOIP for business is not a strange magic. You are just looking for a telephone company and the medium they use to transport the calls is not your problem when operating a business. Hold a VOIP phone company to the same standards you would a traditional Telco, the quality of their service should not be any less.
I hope you find these Business VOIP solution tips useful and that this page has helped you make a more informed decision