According to a recent BT Professional Services study, nearly half of all global IT organizations have already installed or incorporated VoIP into their infrastructure. Business VoIP service is a rapidly expanding industry- if you’re company hasn’t made the switch yet, chances are it’s something you’ve considered.
However, not all business VoIP phone systems are created equal. The best fit for one company might not work well for another business, and some enterprises have specific requirements that necessitate one type of system or another. Here’s a basic guide on what you need to know before you choose a VoIP system.
Type of System: On Site v. Hosted
VoIP comes in two basic varieties- “on-site” systems, such as on-premise IP-PBX, and “hosted” systems, where equipment is housed at the provider location. Both present distinct advantages for businesses with different needs.
An on-site system allows you greater control over bandwidth designation, features, and security options, and can be customized more easily. Since you own the equipment, you can modify it as you see fit. On-site systems require a higher initial cost outlay, and are maintained and updated by the owner, which can also lead to further costs down the road.
Hosted systems, on the other hand, are a bit like leasing- you pay a monthly fee to use the system software, but it is maintained, updated, and repaired (if necessary) by the provider company. Hosted systems are portable, too- if you move offices, there’s no need to reconfigure complex equipment. Some vendors offer “hybrid” options, where some equipment is off-site and some is self-maintained. Make sure you carefully consider your available office space, maintenance budget, and technological know-how before choosing a hosted or an on-site system.
Types of Connections: Dedicated v. Open Internet
VoIP systems use Internet Protocol to route calls. Not all internet connections are the same. Although you can technically use a VoIP system with any speedy internet connection (wireless, broadband), some providers require a specific type of transmission, typically a T-1 line. T-1 lines are considered dedicated connections. Your service itself might be less expensive, but the cost for a T-1 line can be hundreds of dollars a month.
Your other option is to route calls using an “open” internet connection, which is less expensive but can pose more of a security risk. Geographic location and provider preference are the two big factors to consider here. A T-1 line provides a faster connection in some areas, which is why some providers require it to install a VoIP system. Ask your VoIP services vendor if they require a specific type of internet connection.
VoIP Providers: What to Look For
Not all small business VoIP providers are the same- some cater to smaller businesses, while some only serve larger companies.
When choosing a VoIP service company, service offerings and budget shouldn’t be your only concerns. You should ask for local references, find out who your “contact” person at the company will be (if you are assigned a dedicated service representative) and thoroughly examine the vendor from a customer service perspective.
A VoIP system is a long-term purchase- it’s important to choose a vendor that’s willing to work with you to provide the best system for your business at a price that’s within your budget.
Resource Nation provides free tools, tips, and purchasing advice for business owners and entrepreneurs in over 100Resource Nation provides free tools, tips, and purchasing advice for business owners and entrepreneurs in over 100 business categories ranging from phone systems to credit card processing. Whether it’s connecting businesses with local and national pre-screened vendors, or offering easy service comparisons on a VoIP service, Resource Nation empowers business decision makers by providing the information they need to make smart choices.
David Liu is a writer and comedian based in San Diego, California. He writes extensively for Resource Nation and VoIP service, an online resource that provides expert advice on purchasing and outsourcing decisions for small business owners and entrepreneurs.