The traditional way of providing telephone services is gradually disappearing as people and businesses move towards IP-based solutions. BT has already announced that it intends to close its old PSTN systems by 2025 and move to an all IP network.

For business users, IP has many attractions. It can offer cost savings and improve efficiency by giving you integrated office phone, mobile and video conferencing on a single, integrated platform. So, in looking for an IP provider, what are the key points you need to consider?

Business VoIP providers – services

First of all, you need to think about the services that any system you’re looking at offers. This includes functionality such as the ability to reroute calls to another phone after two or three rings, providing voice menus or placing calls in a queue before they are answered. Diverting calls to voicemail or a mobile device is also a key consideration. VoIP systems typically offer this functionality from the cloud rather than requiring that you have a box installed on your premises.

You also need to be thinking about integration with other products. Linking to third-party applications allows your call centre staff to have the information they need at their fingertips via a single screen. So, for example, initiating a call can also bring up the customer’s record on Salesforce or similar. When you’re choosing a VoIP package, therefore, look at how well it ties in with your existing applications.

Mobile communication

The modern business world is increasingly flexible and this means that many staff spend a lot of time away from the office. One of the attractions of switching to VoIP is that you can integrate all of your communications via a single platform, even if users are on a mobile handset.

VoIP services will typically offer the ability to forward calls to a mobile device so there’s no risk of your sales or field service staff missing an important call while they are out of the office. Many solutions will also provide a mobile app that allows calls to be made via the VoIP platform.

Security and compliance

With any cloud-based service, it’s important to ensure that it’s kept secure. You need to be certain that your VoIP provider will take proper care of any data stored in their cloud, look for services that offer encryption of information during transmission and at rest.

You also need to think about compliance issues. Financial services companies, for example, under the provisions of Mifid II, now need to record calls and retain the data for several years. This will be a key consideration in selecting a VoIP service provider. Look at where the provider’s servers are located because storing data outside the UK may not be an option for some businesses.

Ask about backups too, how is your data being saved and where are copies stored? Is there a failover plan in the event of an issue?

Pricing plans

One of the key considerations in switching to VoIP is often cost, so clearly you need to take a close look at any potential provider’s pricing plans. Services are usually priced on a per-user basis, so the number of people you have using the system is a key factor.

You’ll find that there are usually different levels of functionality available too. More advanced services will push up the cost compared to a basic plan. You also need to look at whether you can mix and match plans in order to give users who need it a higher level of service.

It’s important to look at the volume of calls you’re expecting to handle, and ensure that you choose a provider that is able to cope with this volume and provide the functionality that you need.

Think about extras like video conferencing too. Find out if this is available as part of the plan and don’t forget to factor in any costs for any additional hardware you may need to operate it.

Service and support

Telecoms are business-critical for most firms and losing your phone service inevitably leads to you losing money too. It is, therefore, crucial to look at the reliability of the service on offer from a VoIP provider as well as the support provided.

The service level agreement (SLA) should set out the levels of uptime you can expect, in addition to target times for problem resolution. If you run a round-the-clock business, you need to have a provider that can provide round the clock support. Find out if support technicians are available only during office hours and what happens when you make a support call, is it routed via a call centre or can you get straight through to someone who can solve your problem?

For further information and advice, why not contact the expert team at IDT.