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4 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Business VoIP System – Part I

July 26, 2017
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Purchasing a new business phone system can be difficult because there are so many competing and confusing options available. VoIP systems offer scalable flexibility and predictable affordability, so they are becoming quite popular with both small and large organizations. Below introduces basic questions that business leaders should ask regarding the organization’s IT capabilities and third-party service provider’s services.

1 – Why Do We Need a New Phone System?

Before selecting a new business phone system, it’s important to understand the existing system through a needs analysis and budget analysis. These will help determine which critical features and functions will be needed. It may help to break down all internal user processes and external customer processes that involve the phone system. Knowing the current users’ calling habits and usage needs is just as important as projecting their future trends and any technology changes. One of the best approach involves segmenting the workforce by mobility, job type and calling requirements. Each department may have different needs and may need unique features. Knowing the average monthly expense for phone service, contracts and maintenance will help establish an appropriate budget.

 2 – Do We need a Hosted or In-house System?

VoIP technology is available through proprietary and open-source IP phone systems as well as hosted IP PBX systems through ISPs and other service providers. Hosted PBX (HPBX) systems offer significant cost savings and operational benefits over other phone systems. This is because they often come with predictable billing, low capital expenses and business continuity benefits. Organizations that need scalable solutions for mobile workforces and global customers will benefit from cloud-based solutions that offer better flexibility and accessibility. HPBX systems use the cloud to connect VoIP phones to the centralized system, so users can enjoy the same benefits and access the same features as traditional voice mail systems.

3 – Is The Network Capable and Internet Connection Suitable?

Hosted and premise-based phone systems both will require reliable networks and high-speed Internet connections to ensure performance quality and call consistency.  The Internet connection must accommodate other IT activities like email, file transfers and web browsing, so upstream bandwidth is important.  DSL connections and asymmetrical cable modems are simply inadequate when compared with fiber or Ethernet symmetrical connections. Most small- to medium-sized business will need to have at least 80 to 100 kilobits per call, per second for uncompressed VoIP purposes. This is on top of the bandwidth already in use. Most VoIP service providers know how to reduce the bandwidth requirements through compressing voice calls.

4 – Does the ISP Offer Protective SLAs?

The best Internet connectivity for VoIP services depends on Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that protect call quality and performance. Not all ISPs proactively manage their controlled network traffic and engineer specific solutions that respond to changing needs and data priorities. The Internet consists of hundreds of ISPs who each control their own service level and speed. Many ISPs offer affordable prices because they do not predict problems, guarantee zero downtime and troubleshoot temporary service degradation. The best SLAs will cover network latency and packet loss with basic carrier penalties and minimum downtime credits. If available, it may help to use the HPBX’s preferred Internet provider to minimize poor call quality and maintain performance stability.

Many VoIP service providers offer readiness support and assessments in order to benchmark IT infrastructure and performance. They may recommend that IT administrators upgrade network switches and configure the router to prioritize VoIP data through WAN optimization. For example, switches and routers can be reconfigured to alleviate common information traffic jams. Part two will explore how to select the right VoIP vendor, understand the installation and properly train employees.

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