Last Updated: 1/1/2020
The traditional way of providing telephone services is gradually disappearing as people and businesses move towards IP-based solutions. For example, the UK’s 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 telephony offers many attractions, including cost savings and improved efficiency through the ability to provide phone, mobile, and video conferencing services on a single, integrated platform. If you’re ready to make the change to an IP provider, what are the key points you need to consider?
Business VoIP Providers
First, consider the specific services that any system you’re investigating offers. Depending on your needs and the provider you’re evaluating, this may include:
- Rerouting unanswered calls to another phone after two or three rings
- Providing voice menus
- Placing calls in a queue before they’re answered
- Diverting calls to voicemail or a mobile device
VoIP systems typically offer this functionality from the cloud, which removes the need for costly on-premises equipment.
In addition, digitized voice services can be integrated with other applications. For example, many businesses will want to look for opportunities to channel calls through customer relationship management (CRM) or help desk software programs. Make sure that your candidate VoIP termination providers can provide interfaces to the applications you already have (or that you may want to buy in the future).
The modern business world is increasingly flexible, with many staff spending time away from the office. One advantage of switching to a VoIP provider is that it should be able to integrate all communications through a single platform, even for users on mobile handsets.
Because VoIP services typically offer this ability to forward calls to mobile devices, sales staff and technicians can be “in the office,” even when they’re out in the field. Many solutions even provide a mobile app that allows users to make calls directly from the VoIP platform.
Number Allocation Through VoIP
Another benefit of using a VoIP telephone system is that individual numbers do not need to be fixed on different handsets. Most providers offer the ability to switch the phone that the number leads to, and even nominate mobile devices, as needed.
Of course, most VoIP services make it easy to have a call routed to a computer. However, being able to speak through a regular telephone handset makes the VoIP experience feel less alien and more like a traditional telephone service.
One nice feature to look out for is the ability to schedule allocations, though not all VoIP providers offer this option. For example, business users that get calls routed to their private phones should be able to suspend the routing of these calls outside of business hours.
Another demand for number reallocation arises when an employee leaves. Since most businesses don’t want employees walking off with the VoIP numbers that were assigned to their mobile devices, having the ability to revoke an allocation and reallocate it to the departing worker’s replacement is critical.
A nice allocation feature that may be appropriate for some businesses is the ability to schedule the forwarding of business calls to different phones around the globe, around the clock. This is especially useful for companies that maintain 24/7 help desks; as a technician clocks off from work in one time zone, another technician can start work on the other side of the planet.
Security and Compliance
Connection security is an important requirement when it comes to using cloud-based services. Reputable VoIP termination providers know that their client base is concerned about data loss and ensuring security both in transmission and at rest on the service’s servers in the cloud.
Data security isn’t just a matter of paranoia, data protection standards have become contractual requirements for many businesses – non-compliance often means you don’t win contracts. Government legislation may also demand that voice call recordings be retained for a number of years. For example, financial services companies are required by the EU’s MiFID II regulation to record calls and retain the data for several years.
As a result, storage security for data protection is now just as important for many companies as transmission privacy. Disaster recovery is another consideration, which is why many companies seek out VoIP termination providers that offer secure storage backup services or that interface to compatible third-party storage providers.
Emergency Number Compatibility
A reputable VoIP provider should enable users of their numbers to be able to connect to the relevant emergency services. But this isn’t just a matter of patching through emergency calls. Emergency services must also be able to see the caller’s number and get it fed into the emergency operator’s phone support software.
This is standard procedure on PSTN numbers, following the requirement outlined in the E-911 standard published by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Cost cutting is often a big incentive for companies that are considering switching over to VoIP. And because IP telephony services are usually priced on a per-user basis, the number of people they have using the system tends to be a key factor in the decision-making process.
VoIP termination providers often package their services in “editions,” which create different service bundles that are likely to appeal to different types of buyers. For this reason, examining offers on a plan-by-plan basis is often more important than simply considering rival providers. These editions equate to service bundles, and they will often include different “extra” services, such as call forwarding, recording, storage, and so on.
Other price variables are based on monthly call volumes. VoIP termination providers often tailor plans towards different user types, according to call volumes. As with any industry, some VoIP termination providers deploy misleading pricing tactics. Dig through the small print to account for the full cost of each service – not just the headline price shown on the service’s home page.
Service and Support
Service reliability is critical in such an essential service as a company’s telephone service, where even a short outage can seriously impact sales, credibility, and profitability. Further, tying up the company’s telephone system with a financially unstable VoIP termination provider creates a big risk, should that provider go out of business.
Fortunately, there are well-established VoIP termination providers out there. And, as with most business services, VoIP provision is bound up by contracts. At the heart of the contract lies a service level agreement (SLA), which should include service guarantees, problem resolution time limits, and support levels.
Assessing VoIP Termination Providers
The reputation and reliability of a VoIP service is just as important as the competitiveness of the provider’s price.
Internet telephony makes many more extra services available than traditional phone companies can provide; however, not all VoIP companies offer a full complement of services. Among those that do offer these additional features, some will charge extra, while others include these add-ons at no extra cost. Make sure that you thoroughly examine the pricing structure of your chosen VoIP system to understand what’s included before signing a contract.
Build your own assessment model that awards points to price and reliability. If your enterprise couldn’t operate without its telephone system, don’t risk losing valuable business opportunities for the sake of saving a few dollars a month on your telephone system.
Need help selecting the appropriate VoIP termination providers for your company? Let the experts at IDT Express help with this critical decision. Reach out today for more information.