After more than 55 years in the telecommunications industry, we have seen everything. The adoption of Cloud-based VoIP phone systems has led to a massive increase of vendors trying to earn your business. Often long-standing customers of ours ask us to help them evaluate multiple proposals that they receive to help make sense of all the jargon.
We decided to put together this guide of the top 12 points that we think are most important to consider when evaluating VOIP providers. We are a Maryland-based IT and telecommunications provider with enough time and experience in the industry to be able to give you the best information possible when choosing your next VoIP phone system provider.
What is a VoIP Phone System?
Everyone in business today is looking for ways to cut costs, streamline processes, and improve communications. One way to do this is with a VoIP phone system.
VoIP is an acronym for Voice Over Internet Protocol, which is a fancy term for saying “phones that use the internet”. The unique advantage that VoIP has over traditional PBX (private branch exchange) phone systems is that it allows you to save money by transferring voice AND data over the same network. It’s an attractive option that is becoming a reliable and affordable way to handle all of your telephony needs.
1.Considerations of your environment:
- Ensure that they are providing an “Edge Device” which enables them to remotely monitor and manage the voice quality
- Ensure they will evaluate and work with your internet service provider as that is a critical part of the equation for a properly designed solution
- Ensure you have proper cabling and a “VOIP Ready” network in place
- Consider separating the voice and data networks for maintenance and performance reasons (also to eliminate finger-pointing between vendors)
2.We believe a local company is a better fit than a national provider.
This is more important now than ever for the following reasons:
- There has been a massive movement of mergers and acquisitions in the VOIP space, and it is projected to grow substantially in 2021 and beyond. Local companies are typically significantly less likely to be involved in M&A Activity
- Initial site surveys are essential to identify potential issues and attempt to proactively prevent them prior to the installation day
- Onsite installations by the VOIP provider ensure a smooth transition; most national providers do not send technicians onsite to complete installations and either rely on a customer to self-install or contract their IT vendor
3.Inquire about the trunk (line) to phone ratio.
Some providers offer a 1:1 ratio of phones to phone lines (trunks) – this will ensure that you will have adequate access to the phone network and will not get billed for overages
4.Some VOIP providers charge for usage or do not have true unlimited usage agreements.
Ensure that you are aware of any varying costs
5.Fixed-price agreements for the term you are signing.
Do not get caught with increased pricing during the initial term due to promotions or unforeseen pricing increases.
6.Ability to decrease the monthly commitment without penalty.
This is critical to deal with potential business downturns and having flexibility in budgeting
7.Consider what technology is being used to deliver the service
There are two major players in this space, 1) Cisco BroadSoft and Microsoft MetaSwitch. We believe that Microsoft is the best choice as the industry is heavily moving towards MS 365 and MS Teams. By selecting a Microsoft MetaSwitch solution now, it will make the future migration to MS Teams significantly easier/more efficient and decrease the learning curve for your end-users.
8.Existing Contract Liability
It often gets overlooked and needs to be considered to prevent early termination fees. This can include multiple vendors such as internet service provider(s), voice service provider(s), existing maintenance provider of current phone system and any potential outstanding leases/financing agreements.
9.Do not overlook evaluating for analog lines and devices that may need to be upgraded or remain analog.
Some examples are fire/security monitoring, fax lines, elevators, credit card/postage machines, etc.
10.Consider Technologies that may require integration.
For instance, overhead paging systems, door phones, conference phones, and other technologies that may require integration into the new phone system as these items often get overlooked and some providers do not support them
11.Evaluate the physical phone/devices that are being provided with your agreement.
It is very common for service providers to give “free” phones as an incentive elect their service. The “free” phones they give are usually not very functional for the everyday office staff and ultimately lead to very unhappy and unproductive workforce.
12.Proof of Concept
Ask your potential VOIP providers to put their money where their mouth is and provide a live demonstration of the phone system they are proposing. This will afford you the ability to test hardware, software, features, and call quality before you commit to buy.
If you do your due diligence, you can save yourself countless amounts of stress and wasted money. There are lots of great VoIP phone system providers out there, you just have to make sure that who you’re paying has your best interests in mind as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of quality should we expect with VoIP phones?
VoIP phone systems can have phenomenal quality! It depends on several factors that primarily focus on your existing infrastructure. If you have high quality and fast internet, it should sound crisp and clear. If you’re using outdated ethernet cables like Cat5, you might notice some fuzziness or distortion.
How many calls can be made simultaneously on a VoIP phone system?
It depends on the phone system, but typically most VoIP phone systems offer unlimited calls to be made simultaneously. Some more restrictive systems may implement limits on smaller plans to help keep costs low or to prevent misuse/abuse.
What if there’s a power outage?
If you don’t have power/internet, you’re not going to be able to make calls utilizing VoIP. However, if you do have a backup source of power, and a good 4G LTE internet redundancy, you can still utilize your VoIP.