Your VoIP Phone Service – Ten Questions to Help Decide

Your business probably relies on voice communication for its very existence. A VoIP phone service is an efficient, convenient and accountable way to manage inward and outbound calls. Therefore it is an essential part of a well-managed business.

Your VoIP Phone Service is a Critical Service

The delivery of a VoIP phone service can be glossed over by IT staff who may not understand voice services. Businesses expect phones to work and may not appreciate how difficult it is to provide a reliable and high-quality phone service. This combination of IT staff lack of experience and general ignorance can be dangerous.

“deals lost and goodwill eroded with long term business consequences”

A badly installed and configured VoIP system can lead to, not just inconvenience with bad quality calls, but deals lost and goodwill eroded with long-term business consequences.

VoIP Technology

Today’s telephony is completely different to what it used to be. Making a phone call on a VoIP phone service seems very similar but what happens in the background to deliver this service could not be more different. Your old telephone service had its own “copper” network connected to large phone exchanges strategically placed around the country. Today’s VoIP telephony is a data application delivered over a fibre-optic network, sharing the data connection with your Internet service, and other services such as “Netflix”. Large phone exchanges housed in warehouses have been replaced with high-end computer servers mounted in racks the size of large refrigerators.

However, the critical difference between old phone services and today’s phone services is that VoIP systems are susceptible to bad quality if installed and managed incorrectly.  This happens all too often which gives VoIP a bad name. Have you heard someone say that VoIP is unstable or provides bad quality voice calls? The real reasons behind these problems are either a bad installation or the wrong Voice Service Provider (VSP).

Avoiding bad quality providers is the best option

Choosing the right VoIP Phone Service will save you time and money, avoid headaches and downtime. It’s only when there is a problem that the true value of a good VoIP phone service becomes apparent. But it’s too late when you are tied into a term contract.

“do some homework and ask some important questions”

Every supplier of VoIP phone services will tell you that their service and support is the best, so how do you sort the “wheat from the chaff”? To select the right Voice Service for your business, you will have to do some homework and ask some important questions says Managing Director Nigel Rayneau of Auckland-based VSP UFONE.

1. Who is powering the VoIP phone service?

You need to establish exactly who provides your service because if your IT consultant is proposing a VoIP system then they will invariably be selling a service provided by a VSP. You need to know who that is because that’s who is ultimately responsible for the quality and stability of the service. It’s best to research the VSP and find out what their customer is saying, and how long they have been in business.

2. Does your VSP operate and manage their own VoIP Infrastructure?

Establish whether the VSP owns and manages the core VoIP infrastructure, or do they actually buy from someone else?  This is also important because they might not have the ultimate control meaning support will be 2nd hand. The actual VSP might be providing an inferior, or cheap service so it’s critical you understand exactly who provides the service.

3. What support channels do they provide?

No matter reliable they claim they are, the only thing you know for certain is that at some point you are going to need technical support. It may be as simple as configuring a phone for a new staff member, or more serious like a roadworks digger slicing through your local fibre feed.

You need to know that expert support staff is available when you need them. They need to be equipped to troubleshoot a wide range of problems.  Does your VSP provide support via a phone call? Or is it solely done by tickets and emails? Because the latter is insufficient for any serious business.

Also, where is their support located? An overseas support department might be cheaper to run but may not provide the immediate knowledge required for good support.

4. What experience does the installer/integrator have?

A bad installation can be the result of incompetence or inexperience. You don’t want to be a guinea pig for a company that has no track record or experience to speak of. Also, do they have sufficient Public Liability Insurance and do they follow ‘Best Practice’?  Fly-by-night operators are common so know who you are dealing with.  Research your installer/integrator and get a number of references from obviously independent customers, with a variety of different VoIP systems.

5. What protection is provided against fraudulent calling?

Telephony has been subject for a long time to “Fraudulent Calling Attacks” and in the new IP world of telephony, this has only increased.  Your chosen VSP should be guaranteeing protection against “Calling Fraud”, as the cost can be significant.

6. What large corporate or Government customers do they serve?

A good indication of the capability of a VSP is the quality of their customers. Corporates and government departments have stringent requirements that their service providers are strictly evaluated.

7. What is their system uptime?

In the “old days” telephone services rated their reliability by how many nines they could achieve, and the ultimate was 5 nines or 99.999% uptime. This equates to 5 minutes per year or 26 seconds per month, where the service was down, and needless to say is very reliable. VoIP systems by their nature cannot get close to this performance because they rely on so many more moving parts that are impossible to control.  System uptime over a 6-12 month period will give you a good indication of how reliable the VoIP service is.

8. Do they have a disaster recovery plan?

In the event of a disaster that wipes out a data centre, ask them what happens to your service? A carrier-grade VoIP service should be redundant over at least two physically separate data centres. If one data centre is disabled, another one should take over the load.

What will happen if your data connection is lost? The VoIP service will rely on this data connection. If it fails for any reason does your VSP provide a diversion to a cell phone? You could also have alternate routing to your Interactive Voice Response (IVR) menu.

9. Do they provide a Cloud-hosted “VoIP Phone Service” service?

A Cloud Hosted VoIP solution is the best option. This is because it off-loads the responsibility to keep the system configured, operational, and secure. It also reduces the need for capital expenditure because no server equipment needs to be installed on-site. A good Cloud Hosted solution should be housed in local “Telco Grade” data centres, rather than at an overseas location or worse at an insecure or inferior data centre. It should also be fully functional, for example, an internal extension to extension call should connect via the extension number, not a ‘dummy’ phone number.

10. Are mobile phone apps available for IOS & Android?

Many businesses are on the go or have remote workers, so having mobile VoIP solutions is crucial to their success. This is also critical if you are travelling overseas a lot. Ask your provider if their service allows you to take calls on cell phones and other mobile devices.

Contact us at UFONE for more answers to your questions.

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