A new breed of VoIP providers can now deliver features that can actually help grow a business and create new revenue streams, instead of just creating functionality for the business’ phone systems. Next-generation VoIP providers are offering features that may have previously been out of reach financially for the small and medium sized business (SMB) or frankly not in existence at all before VoIP. While VoIP is old news for large and medium-sized companies, it‘s biggest impact is currently in the SMB market. SMBs can now reap the benefits of a $25,000 enterprise class VoIP platform at a fraction of the cost, but don’t be fooled; every VoIP service provider does not offer the same service plan, applications or capabilities. It is important to do your homework; there are a LOT of new VoIP players. Consider these few simple tips when selecting a VoIP provider.
Do your homework.There are a number of websites and publications that can help small business owners tackle the challenge of understanding both what they need and how to get it.
http://compnetworking.about.com/od/voipvoiceoverip/VoIP_Voice_Over_IP_Internet_Telephony.htm - about.com
Understand what your VoIP provider offers.Not all VoIP providers offer the same options, research your VoIP provider to make sure they are right for you.
- 1. There are a LOT of new players in the market; does the service provider you are looking at have a proven track record? •
- 2 & 3. Look for the wolves in sheep’s clothing. Is a residential provider providing you the same service but calling it “businesss services?” Also, COST! What is the Cost? Does the provider charge a flat rate per seat, thus charging you for unused capacity? Seats vs. Services
- 4. Is your VoIP service SIP enabled? If not, it will most likely not endure the test of time. • SIP will allow you the greatest flexibility and ensure your hardware purchase is transferable to other providers.
- 5. Can you truly log into ANY SIP compliant phone ANYWHERE and get service or do you have to carry your phone around with you? • Does the provider actually mean you can carry your desk phone on the subway and plug it in when you get home or do they offer a truly nomadic service? • Some providers will only accept calls from a phone that they deployed with a specific mac address (not nomadic).
- 6. Can you use any SIP compliant device or are you going to have to invest in some costly proprietary hardware? • You should use the hardware you want to use and a quality VoIP provider should be able to support it as long as it is SIP capable.
- 7. Go with a completely hosted solution if you: • Don’t have a technical person or the in-house expertise to manage a PBX • Don’t have a place to safely put a PBX • Do have employees who will use the service in multiple locations.
- 8. Here’s a scenario: You have a home and work phone. You regularly move between locations. You want BOTH phones to ring when your extension is called, can your service provider do this? If not, they aren’t SIP experts. • Ask your provider if they support "multiple simultaneous SIP registrations for the same SIP address". If not, they aren't SIP experts.
- 9. When shopping, don’t make decisions based on price alone, search for more. • SIP enabled VoIP services can do much more than just replicate traditional phone service. Look for new, value-adding features such as voicemail-to-email, wifi phone capabilities, remote phone forwarding, 3rd party application integration and more.
- 10. Steer clear of long-term contracts or cancellation penaltiesIf there is a lock up, the provider probably expects you to want to leave when you find the service to be below par.