What You Need to Know Before Buying VoIP

By Sheila Shanker
Updated: August 23, 2011

VoIP is hot these days! No wonder so many people are excited over moving their communication systems towards VoIP, the Internet-based system that can save you a bundle, while offering great features and flexibility. You can even get video services, if you so require, at very reasonable cost. However, before you take the plunge and get into a VoIP situation, consider these issues:

Do you have the proper Internet connection and bandwidth to handle the VoIP volume?

Dial-up service is out—you cannot use VoIP over a dial up connection. An ISDN or ADSL connection may be suitable, but with no mobility. Wireless technologies may work, but many are limited by distance and signal quality. Most LAN would work along with cable situations, again, with limited mobility. Inquire with your Internet provider about your online connection.

Should you get a hosted on in-house system?

Usually, if the system is to be used by more than 25 employees, and you have internal expertise in this area, an in-house solution may be your best bet. If fewer users are expected and/ or you don’t want to deal with maintenance and other technical issues, a hosted VoIP situation may fit your needs better. Some firms prefer the in-house setup because they don't want a third-party involvement in their communication systems.

What specific features do you require?

Most VoIP systems offer similar services, and you should focus on features that are important to you, which could be auto-attendant, voice mail to email or  Wi Fi connections. Make one list of features you need, and another one with functions that would be nice to have, but are not that important. Many vendors dazzle you with all the functions the VoIP system can offer and is easy to get lost and lose focus.

Will the new phone system integrate with existing programs?

You’re not going to change your CRM or ERP programs to accommodate a new VoIP setup. Rather, the VoIP should be a good fit with your existing systems. Some VoIP programs offer APIs to facilitate integration, but not all. On the other hand, you may decide that you don’t want VoIP to integrate all systems. To make a sound decision about this topic, have a talk with your IT staff.

What users have to say about the system?

Don’t make a decision without talking to users about their needs and wishes. Maybe some key individuals need to conduct a 4-way conference on a regular basis, and you’d never known that without contacting them. It’s better not to assume much and ask lots of questions to employees who use the phone system the most.

Buying a VoIP system can be confusing, but if you consider these issues, you’ll be more focused and knowledgeable and more likely to get a great system to your business. You could also check out the Federal Communications Committee website at www.fcc.gov for current information and alerts about VoIP systems.



 

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