Telephony via VoIP offers a wide range of benefits to businesses, including flexibility and significant savings on international calls. But how can a business decide if it is making the right choice? Here are some of the characteristics to look for with VoIP services.

Before you choose VoIP services

Determining precisely what your business needs from a VoIP system is a good place to start. Think about what is critical in your communications that would assist your business to become more productive. Consider wit which parts of the world your business frequently communicates, what kind of clients you deal with and what they expect from you. When you understand your usage profile, it is far easier to evaluate a VoIP provider’s offerings and decide whether it matches what you require. If your needs are very specific, it may be necessary to ask a provider to tailor a package for your business. Quality providers such as IDT can do this, when there is clarity on the package required, although of course there may be associated costs.

Cost is a key factor in selecting a VoIP provider. The cost of VoIP systems will vary according to the scale of the system, how many phones staff are using and whether there will be a lot of calls to developing countries where incoming calls can cost more to terminate. A reputable VoIP provider will be able to offer an extensive global network that ensures good rates.

What to look for in business VoIP providers

Most VoIP providers offer a number of communication solutions. One is internet telephony, often used by individuals. It consists of a broadband connection via a landline that works with an adaptor and VoIP subscription. This makes use of one site. Another option, generally better suited to businesses, is a number of sites set up on the premises that connect to one line. Then there is hosted VoIP, which doesn’t need phone lines at all and uses broadband to deliver data and voice calls.

When the VoIP solution is based on the premises, the connection to the internet is via a phone line. A second broadband connection is generally necessary in the context of this configuration so that there is one for voice and one for data.

Look at the packages the VoIP provider is offering. These will probably include a basic package that addresses simple business communications needs and single or low number of users.

A midrange package will probably include features such as unlimited calling within the Western World, three-way calling, virtual receptionists for different extensions and caller ID.

Top of the range packages are more complex and deliver the highest levels of flexibility, security and control. If you are looking at a package in this range, it can be tailored to the needs of your business, with features such as dedicated lines for important clients, controlled levels of access for different members of staff and the ability to log in and use the system wherever you happen to be in the world (provided that there is an internet connection). At this level, a business may consider self-hosting using an IP PBX (private branch exchange) which will allow the use of SIP trunking to support multimedia connections and sessions.

VoIP Services and dealing with issues

You might want to try out a provider’s product to ensure the route quality and clarity of calling is what you expect. A reputable provider should, of course, stand by the quality of its systems and connections. No matter how good these are, there will be occasional issues of some kind which is where the service aspect of the VoIP provider becomes important. Choose a provider who is reported as being responsive if something goes wrong.

Look for any hidden charges too. A quality VoIP provider will be open and transparent about charges. If they are not, then they are unlikely to be a wise choice. Also look for a provider which is clear about rate charges. A number of variables can be involved in rate charges, and changes could lead to adjustments. A good provider will have a thorough grasp of all their rate charges, what affects them and how this affects their clients. A properly organised and reputable VoIP provider should not be a source of unpleasant surprises. It is the provider’s job to understand rates and offer stability and competitive pricing to their clients.

There are fraudulent players in the VoIP business, so don’t be fooled by a landing page and rates that are too good to be true – because they probably are. Focus on providers that have verified credentials, that have invested in offices and staff, and can supply references from satisfied clients.