Buyer's Manual for Purchasing Hosted VoIP

By Ryan Ayers
Updated: July 12, 2011

Purchasing a business VoIP telephone system can be an overwhelming proposition, and the idea of becoming an expert on all things telephonic to be sure that you make the right choices in your buying process can be daunting. By following a few basic suggestions, this process can be made infinitely simpler and you can go about researching and purchasing your new VoIP telephone system with greater confidence.

What You Should Know

The Basics: Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone systems can increase your business’ potential for communicating more efficiently while saving you significant expense. The features and capabilities offered by modern VoIP systems give businesses of any size and type the ability to function in a manner that was once reserved for large businesses with unlimited IT and infrastructure budgets.

What VoIP Can Provide for Your Business:

  • Call center capabilities
  • Effective customer routing
  • Increased availability
  • Integrated messaging (voice/data)

What to Look for

The Basics: The primary difference between a VoIP telephone system and its traditional premise-based counterparts lies in the exponential increase in available functions. Your business relies on its telephone system in a variety of ways and if you can pinpoint the most important of these, you will know which features to look for when comparing VoIP providers’ various packages.

The most common features (and those found in almost all VoIP packages) serve as a basic call-center or autoattendant and help to filter customer calls to the correct employee or route calls between extensions. More in depth features may allow employees greater accessibility (call forwarding/find me-follow me, etc.), allow for remote locations, or add depth to your messaging and data capabilities. Finding the right fit for your company depends on the individual operations and traits of your company and employees.

Features to Look for:

  • Autoattendant
  • Find me – Follow me
  • Call Forwarding
  • Integrated Messaging
  • Call Queuing
  • Virtual Reception

Evaluating Cost

The Basics: As with any other business solution or technology, it is important to separate out the things you want versus the things that your business should have when assessing overall costs. VoIP packages and services range from absurdly cost effective to prohibitively expensive and can encompass a wide array of features within that range. Finding the core features that your business will benefit from the most will give you a good starting point for coming up with a realistic budget.

Note: Many VoIP service providers offer highly scalable plans that allow your business to add features, users, and components to your service as your needs or budgets change. This offers your business the ability to adopt and use new technology and use it to your advantage and add features as a larger budget becomes more tenable or as your needs become more apparent.

Factors in Determining Cost:

  • What features does your business need?
  • What features might you benefit from (within a comfortable difference in budgeting)?
  • What level of service are you anticipating?
  • How many users will you realistically need?
  • Is it more appropriate to begin with a smaller service package and build later?

Evaluating Vendors

The Basics: Choosing a vendor for your new VoIP solution will also depend largely on your specific needs. If you need a vendor to provide services at an inexpensive price-point, but expect little in the way of features, support, or guidance, you will likely be looking almost exclusively at pricing. If you are looking for guidance in expanding and renovating your system further down the line and want more of a “partner” relationship, then you will need to look more at the track record and support services offered by potential vendors.

Note: The lower priced (and less service oriented) service providers typically offer less in the way of implementation and training assistance. More service-focused providers often follow up with employee training, product demos, and technical support to ease the transition to your new system.

Checklist - Choosing the Right Vendor:

  • Price Point
  • Call Quality
  • Network Uptime
  • After Sale Service
  • Training and Demos
  • Technical Support
  • Scalability

Beginning with an honest appraisal of your company needs and a realistic set of expectations for your new VoIP system will help immeasurably in getting you to the right fit that balances both your budgetary and operational needs. With the wide variety of service providers and packages available to businesses today, there is a VoIP solution for almost every business type at almost any price point.

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