The telephone is one of your most powerful business tools. Making the right choice when exploring the best VOIP phone system options will have a tremendous impact on your business.
Choosing a new VOIP business phone may not be an easy task, even for the most tech savvy business owner.
Simply stated VOIP (voice over internet protocol) is voice conversation that is translated into a digital sound file. These “packets” of data are transmitted via internet protocol and may be transmitted over a local or wide area network or via the internet.
VOIP phone systems may be “hosted” or “premise based”. The “hosted” solution, has no physical server or common equipment required at your business site. A provider is hosting the VOIP telephone system and delivering this service via an internet connection. A hosted VoIP system would require only IP telephones connected to a data switch at your site.
A “premise based” VoIP telephone system requires a unified communication server to be installed on your premise. The users and IP telephones connected to this server may all be located within the same building or they may be connected to remote users at various locations. With this solution, a dial tone from a telco provider is connected to the server.
A qualified partner should be able to present you with both solutions. Hosted or premised based, there are several key items to consider when choosing the best VOIP telephone system for your business.
Features of a VoIP Business Phone System
Over the years I have read many different articles on the topic of choosing a telephone system for your business. It’s often suggested to write down a list of the features you want.
What if you don’t know what features you need or what features are available? How will these features and functions help improve efficiency and productivity? The right partner will take the time to understand your communication requirements, provide you and your team with a demonstration of the powerful features and help you understand firsthand how you will apply these features to your daily operation to improve efficiency within your business.
CIO, Jason Smith with Mid-West Metal Product Co. states “Great products sell themselves, however the enthusiasm brought by Taylored Systems convinced me that the Zultys platform was a true fit for us with all its features and capabilities.”
At a minimum features of a VOIP telephone system should include:
- Connect to the VOIP system as a user from a mobile device with the ability to make and receive calls as if you were in the office
- The ability to “log in” at any device and not be bound to only a single phone
- The ability to view presence or status of other users on the system from the desktop and also from my mobile device
- Send and receive instant messages with other users on the same voice network from my mobile device
- Voicemail to email
- Attach .wav file to email
- Instant messaging
- Presence Management
- On the phone
- In a meeting
- Out to lunch
- Not available
- Desktop control of your IP phone
- View inbound call, click to dial a number
- Call Log
- Call Reports
- Call Recording
Quality Partner Support is Imperative
The best VOIP telephone system is only as good as the service provider or trusted partner that is supporting it. Hosted or premise based, you want to know how the new implementation is going to be cared for by your provider. From gathering the initial programming details, scheduling training and planning for implementation, as well as, support long after the installation, be sure your provider is top-notch.
- Is service available 24-7?
- Are there programming changes that I can administer myself?
- What is the warranty period and what is included?
Any reputable provider should be very willing to provide you with multiple references. An excellent question to ask a reference would be, “If you encountered a problem, how did the provider handle the resolution?”
The Bottom Line on VoIP Telephone Systems
Whether you decide on a hosted or premise based VOIP system, it’s important to understand the total costs, whether they be monthly recurring expenses or one time up-front costs.
The “hosted” VOIP phone system will include a per user monthly recurring fee. Make sure to clarify the difference between the features included for a “basic” user and the features included on a “premium” user. Different providers will have a different names for the user type, possibly “standard” and “enhanced”.
The bottom line is the features that are included will vary significantly. If your proposal doesn’t indicate these details, ask for clarification. This will help you with completing a comparison between providers.
There will also be monthly recurring fees for additional features such as virtual attendant, automated answer and additional concurrent call paths (the ability to make or receive more than one call at a time). In some cases the IP telephone may be included in the monthly recurring fee as a “rental” and in other cases the cost of the IP telephone is included in the one-time purchase and installation fees. Installation costs for a hosted solution may or may not include on-site technical installation and training. Furthermore, is it even an option?
For the best “premise based” VOIP phone system there may be a higher upfront cost as there will be a voice server and licensing to be purchased as a one-time expense, along with cost for installation. When these costs are presented as a lease, it easily becomes an affordable monthly expense.
The additional monthly recurring fees to consider with a “premise based” solution will be the dial tone that is connected to the voice server. The actual costs will vary based on the type of delivery and the carrier. Details of the installation for the premise based solution should include general review of available features and collection of the database, programming, testing and on-site training. Another consideration for the premise based platform will be future expense for software support from the manufacturer and maintenance for the on premise equipment.
The best VOIP telephone system partner can assist you with determining the total monthly recurring and one time fees associated with any solution in a clear, easy to read format.