More than one-third of companies (36%) have already adopted hosted VoIP services. This number will almost certainly increase as more companies become aware of this alternative to traditional phone services and equipment. After all, hosted VoIP is cost effective, more feature-rich, and infinitely more scalable than plain old telephone systems (POTS) or on-premise PBXs. However, choosing a hosted VoIP provider is not without an element of risk. Not all providers are alike, nor are their services. With all the buzz about VoIP, you need to be conscious of the following six criteria before signing the contract.
1. Deploy and Administer with Ease
Leading hosted VoIP solutions require very little equipment to be installed. All you typically need is an IP phone, a voice gateway device, and a voice router (both of which sit on your network). Choose a hosted VoIP provider that offers the choice of either a self-installation process or professional help with the deployment. Choosing the professional help typically includes a technical professional who does the actual installation as well as an account or project manager. This manager will be your liaison to the company and ensure everything goes smoothly.
Once the hosted VoIP system is installed, administering it should be easy. Your provider should offer a simple online portal that requires little training and allows you to add new users/extensions, order new features, and get straightforward answers.
2. Include Quality-of-Service (QoS) Benefits and Security Safeguards
Your hosted VoIP system is likely to be the most important technology tool in your company. You need it to be both reliable and secure. Leading hosted VoIP providers will proactively monitor the network 24/7 to ensure the network performs as promised – this is where the QoS comes in – and that you can get support whenever needed, even in the middle of the night. The system should offer security safeguards; monitoring user logins to prevent hacking and ensuring passwords provided during equipment registration and configuration adhere to industry standards and are encrypted during use. Given this list of network reliability and security requirements, choosing a provider that owns the network that delivers your Hosted VoIP service just makes sense. There is a clear separation between providers who provide this integrated solution and those who require you to bring your own bandwidth (BYOB). Since this solution is fully managed by the provider, it simplifies your service response by calling just one provider in the event of an outage or issue.
3. Avoid Hidden Charges
Hosted VoIP services are more cost effective than traditional services. Still, make sure there are no hidden charges to surprise you when the bill arrives. For instance, some providers might not include out-of-network calls in their “unlimited calling” bundles. Always read the fine print before choosing a vendor.
4. Check on the Vendor’s Financials
Hosted VoIP has been around since the late 1990s, but for some providers it’s a fairly new offering. Choose a vendor with a solid history of experience and a proven track record, and take the time to ensure you’ve picked a financially solid player.
5. Validate the Vendor Has Disaster Recovery
Make sure your hosted VoIP provider has a plan for disaster recovery in case of a flood, earthquake, or other disaster. Do not assume the VoIP provider will provide this plan. You need to make sure you won’t be stranded without voice services at a time when you need it most.
6. Make Sure You Know Exactly Which Features Are Provided
Although some of the phone services you need for your business may seem obvious, many hosted VoIP providers leave out basic services such as call forwarding. Make sure you understand exactly what is offered with your plan. The most popular features are auto attendant, Internet fax, conferencing, and call recording. Be sure to ask about seat types. Every function in your business is different, and your phone system should address that. For example, a receptionist may have different needs than the warehouse and the conference room. Your VoIP provider should address these needs with hardware and feature packages that simplify your purchase and offer cost savings.
Hosted VoIP can be a great option that saves your business money while giving you a plethora of features that your previous phone system lacked. But not all hosted VoIP providers will give you the reliability, control, and responsiveness you need. Dig beneath the surface to ensure you’re getting all the features you need.