6 Steps to Choosing your VoIP Provider
A VoIP service is far more cost effective than a traditional landline service. Besides significantly lowering costs, you can get all the benefits associated with a traditional service, like 3-way calling or caller ID, that are now considered indispensable. And VoIP technology is constantly improving and becoming faster, clearer and more efficient.
A large number of VoIP service providers are constantly entering the market despite the intense competition, because demand continues to grow. Since many service providers offer low rates and excellent service plans, it's become difficult to differentiate between companies.
We've provided some key comparison factors to help you choose your Business VoIP provider.
1. Price: Decide if the plan is cost effective
for international dialing and long distance. Some plans offer free international calling to a large number of different countries. Look at the cost of the basic plan, as well as what optional features are available.
One of the best ways to do a price comparison between different vendors is to consider the cost over a full year. Some plans may offer a low introductory rate but then end up with a higher cost by the end of a year. Some VoIP companies tend to charge slightly under $20 per month (some well under that amount), while a few higher-end companies can charge upwards of $40 per month.
2. Size: Can they handle your company's capacity?
Will the VoIP service be used for one-on-one personal calls, group meetings, or large forums? Many providers offer excellent voice quality and low latency when dealing with small numbers, but the quality of the service can quickly degrade when too many users are introduced. Be sure that your business VoIP provider offers scalability.
3. Trial: Choose a provider that offers a free trial period
There are many things you can learn during a free trial period that may not be mentioned in the company literature or by the company rep; things that you can only find out by trying out the system for yourself. A free trial period will allow you to evaluate your sound, how efficiently technical support responds, and exactly how to use the system. During a free trial period, you will not have to buy special equipment and will not have to deal with the hassle and cost of shipping it back.
4. Customer Service: Find out all you can about the level of support
There are two support levels to consider: Customer support and technical support. Can you get your billing questions answered quickly and courteously? Do the technical support people provide you with expert help when you need it? What are the hours of customer or technical support? Can you talk to a real person or is everything handled by emails and instant messengers? Finally, don’t just go by what the company tells you, but scout for reviews from other users on forums.
5. Integration: Make sure the technology can work with peripheral sources
Many VoIP providers can be used with peripheral devices, such as computer-to-phone communication, large group conference calls, televised remote meetings, and many other scenarios involving multiple technology platforms. Your company must evaluate if any of these scenarios apply to them, then find a provider that can integrate with the technology they wish to use.
6. On-Premise or Hosted VoIP System:
This is the most important question when choosing an internet phone provider, and your answer depends on how hands on you want to be with your system:
A hosted system, or hosted PBX, is managed by a third party and uses their servers. Some local phone companies provide VoIP services. Whether your host is local or not, you’ll need to connect with them through the internet. The market is flooded with hosted systems, so you can get some great deals if you shop around. Start-up is generally fast and inexpensive, and adding more services as you need them is a nice way to slowly learn the ins and outs of your new system. Consider a provider like Vonage, which doesn’t make you sign up for a long-term contract.
The best things about hosted services are the level of technical support they provide, and the regular upgrades. Staying up-to-date is essential for hosting companies, so you can expect to work with the latest software. Switching hosts once you’re set up can be difficult and time consuming, so be sure to do your research before selecting one.
On-Site VoIP Systems
When you host your own VoIP system, you’re in charge. This means you buy all your own VoIP software and hardware, and you manage what the system’s set-up to do. If you like the technical side of things or have an IT person you trust, this option provides the most security and flexibility. The initial investment can be substantial; hardware and software costs can result in a high per-extension cost, and you’ll have to pay for setup yourself. Once the system is installed, costs are limited to maintenance.
The internet telecommunications landscape is vibrant and varied, with many different providers waiting to meet any need.
There are numerous things to consider when trying to decide on a VoIP provider and by evaluating these factors, you will be able to make an informed choice. For more information, see our reviews of the leading business VoIP providers.