5 Questions to ask when picking a Hosted IP PBX Provider

By Brian Boguhn
Updated: January 27, 2011

Here are five questions to ask when picking a Hosted IP PBX Provider. There are others that can be asked, but these will work as a foundation and will give you an idea as to what your potential provider can offer you. Being armed with these will help you to make a good business decision.

Do you provide the features I need?

VoIP provides features that usually would only be available when working with traditional phone systems. The auto-attendant feature answers all calls in a professional manner and provides callers a list of choices (dial-by-name, dial-by-extension) to route their calls. With the “follow me” call forwarding feature, calls to employees can be automatically directed to landlines and cellphones instead of simply the traditional extension. All can ring simultaneously, lowering the chance of going to voice-mail. A single phone number will allow callers to be routed to any employee, no matter their location. Faxing and conference calling are usually available; make sure your provider offers these. Find out if these features and others are free or if they cost extra.

What is your cancellation policy?

Providers will try to lock you into a long term contract. While you might not be able to void this, you’ll want to do your best to avoid early termination penalties. Know what the penalties are. If you’re renting or leasing the VoIP equipment, you’ll want to know the policies here as well. Find out if your service goes month-to-month after the initial contract is over, or if you need to sign a new deal. Ask if there is still a cancellation fee at that point.

What support is included in the contract?

Find out what support is included and not included in your contract. Will you need a dedicated IT person to handle the phone system, or will network administrators be able to take it on since it will run over your data network that the net admins already manage? Will the provider configure the system for you initially, or will you need to do it yourself while you are on the phone with a customer support agent? Find out if you’ll need programming knowledge to add phones or changes extensions (as is done with traditional systems), or if it can be done through a web interface. Many IP phones, once programmed, are plug and play. The technology will be new to your company; make sure you and your provider are prepared to handle it.

How do you guarantee the quality of your service?

This is an important question. You won’t want your callers to notice any difference between your VoIP system and your previous legacy system. Ask the provider what kind of Internet connection is recommended for the system, and make sure you have it in place before bringing VoIP into your company. Another important point would be to find out how your customers will reach you if your VoIP system fails. In a hosted environment, the provider should be able to provide some sort of failover. Know what it is before disaster strikes.

How do I know you’ll stay in business?

This is a question to ask when making any kind of a technology investment. A new company may be offering a great deal, but will they be in business in 3 years? Research multiple providers. The one that has been in business longest will be the most stable. Balance price vs. stability when making your choice of which provider to go with.

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