Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Switching to IP Telephones (For Small Businesses)

We've been in the phone business for nearly ten years and have watched the shift from Plain Old Telephones (POTS), Analogue and Digital Systems to VoIP and IP telephones.  The biggest reason for the change is savings, which is the bottom-line for your small business.   Most VoIP service providers offer unlimited nationwide and Canadian calling or plans that offer severe discounts to many other countries. But there are some important questions you need to ask yourself before making the switch.

1. Is it really cost effective for my business? How much do you typically spend a month on long-distance or international calls? If most your business calls are local, you may not be saving much by switching.

2. Do I have a reliable Internet and enough network capacity? This is huge! If your internet provider has rocky connectivity or your bandwidth is limited, you will have choppy, intermittent phone service. A real headache!! Do yourself a favor and make sure your connection can handle VoIP alongside your current Internet use.  You can test your current internet speed at www.speedtest.net.  Have your network administrators check out your network capacity first. Here's a handy article on network planning

3. Can you make an initial investment for the VoIP equipment? This is the infrastructure needed to support VoIP services. You may need to invest in servers, routers, switches, and phones.  You'll eventually start saving, but you'll need some capitol for the initial investment.

So you've answered YES to the first 3 questions and you're ready to sign up.  What's next!?!

Research!!
Choose between Premises or Host Phone System
If you need to have several different extensions, call transfers, intercom calls, but don't have a system administrator, you may want to look into having your phone service hosted.  That means you won't need a PBX unit and all the maintenance will be handled by your provider. It costs more, but may be worth it for your business.

Choose your VoIP Provider
There's so many VoIP providers on the market today.  They all offer different packages and quality of service. It's so important to do your research before signing up with any service provider.  It can literally make or break your business (especially if you don't have another reliable source of communication). Know what features you need! Read reviews! One good source is voipreview.org. The 3 top things you'll probably want to pay attention to are:
  • Reliability
  • Price
  • Customer Service (How will they help you during installation or problems that arrise?)

Choose your VoIP Telephones and Equipment
Once you've chosen your provider (even before you sign up), you'll want to find out what type of equipment and phones they support.  Many providers offer phones and equipment to buy.  Sometimes they're even programmed to work with your account.  While this is convenient, I offer a word of caution; many times they've blocked them so that they will ONLY work with their service. Which is fine if everything works seamlessly, but if you ever decide you want to switch you'll have to fork over $$ to buy new phones again!! Good news: Most providers allow you to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Which means you can shop around for less expensive ones and if the day ever comes that you want to switch providers...you can take your phones with you. These Polycom's SoundPoint IP Phones will work with most providers that have BYOD lines and will save you $$!!

VoIP is not for every business, but it can save some businesses quite a bit of money. As the trend is heading it may one day become the ONLY option.  But for now, you can weigh the Pros and Cons and decide if the time is right for you and your business.