8 Questions to Ask VoIP Providers Before Choosing One
VoIP has become a popular way to keep in touch with your customers and team no matter where they are. It can effectively replace your land line and enable unified communications with much less complexity. There are so many VoIP providers out there that once you decide you want a VoIP phone system, a new challenge presents itself – picking the right one.
Your business is unique and has unique needs. It wouldn’t make sense to pick the first internet phone service provider you come across because it may not be right for your specific situation. The end result would be a sub-par experience.
To prevent this from happening, it’s important to ask the potential VOIP provider questions about their services and your specific needs. This article will help understand how to choose a VoIP provider by asking your potential communications partner the right questions.
1) Are you offering Cloud or On-Premise hosting?
These solutions are quite different when it relates to costs and maintenance. With cloud hosted VoIP phone systems, the VoIP provider takes care of all the hardware and software needs associated with the core service. All you have to do to get started is buy, adapt, or rent the phones yourself.
On-Premise hosting is different. You’ll have to invest much more upfront in terms of hardware and servers to get the system running. After that, you may need to outsource maintenance or get a team member to handle it. Over time, you may experience cost savings but it’s much more expensive upfront. One advantage to this approach is control over the security of your system. After considering all the factors, the best VoIP for small businesses will be cloud hosted VoIP.
2) What kind of phones do I need?
VoIP gives small businesses the ability to turn computers and smartphones into softphones that can be used to communicate with the world. It’s not always a replacement for a desk phone. Many VoIP providers such as Vonage also sell phones to their customers.
It’s important to know if your current phones are compatible with the VoIP phone system you’re considering, whether or not they can be adapted, and if there are third party phones you can use with it. No one wants to make the switch to an internet phone service provider and realize they’ll have to spend extra money buying phones directly from the company they’ve partnered with.
3) How can VOIP help when I have employees that are often working remotely or from the field?
This may be one of the most useful features of VoIP. Most VoIP providers will also provide a mobile app that turns smartphones into soft phones. This is essential if a lot of your work happens in the field, or remotely, and you don’t want to miss out on important communication.
Mobile apps from the best VoIP services such as RingCentral do much more than allow you to make and receive calls. With it, you can send team messages, collaborate on the go, and even have video conferences. Before signing up with any VoIP provider, get crystal clear on what its mobile app can and can’t do.
4) Can I get local numbers and what about E911 calls?
As far as emergency calling is concerned, the best VoIP for small businesses will already have this aspect covered but it won’t hurt to check. It’s better to be safe than sorry – especially when it comes to your business. There should be an easy process to change the address or number associated with 911.
VoIP providers are regulated by the FCC and adhere to LNP so you should be able to port your local number to you VoIP phone system or get a local number. Ask them how long it’ll take to port your numbers or, if you’re trying to get a local number, how that process works. There should be clear documentation and knowledgeable support around provisioning numbers.
5) What are the most important features?
This is entirely dependent on the type of business you have but the best VoIP phone service will support many features without being overwhelming. For a small business, that means you may not have much use for SSO (single sign on).
At the same time, there are core features to be on the lookout for even if you don’t use them at the moment because it’s important to plan for growth. As mentioned before, the best VoIP phone service provider will have the features known to be useful for small businesses such as chat, video conferencing, screen sharing, and conference calls. In addition to that, list out features peculiar to your business or integrations you’ll need for your current workflow and confirm they are available.
6) How will it affect my expenses?
This may be the most exciting aspect of VoIP. It can reduce the expenses associated with communication considerably. For example, if you’re currently using multiple tools for team communication, VoIP providers like 8×8 make it possible to eliminate many of them, ultimately lowering costs.
Even if you’re only using your traditional desktop phone, you’ll still see considerable savings. Many businesses have reported savings of 40% or more. Of course, your situation is unique so it’s important to ask your prospective VoIP provider what kind of savings you can expect.
Look at the price points per user and the number of features available on each plan. Even though a provider may have the feature you need, it may only be available on their higher tier plans. Be sure to cross check this information before getting started.
7) What happens if my business starts growing?
With a traditional PBX system, this is a real concern. They’re only built to support a specific amount of users and if you exceed that number, you’ll need a new setup.
Because most VoIP systems for small businesses are cloud hosted, scalability is inherently built in. It shouldn’t be a challenge to add new numbers and phones to your account. When asking this question, you’re trying to understand the processes involved. Are there volume discounts, do you need to upgrade to a higher plan, and how long does it take to add new users?
8) Do I need to retrain myself and my staff?
When you choose the right VoIP system this shouldn’t be an issue. The most difficult part revolves around the initial installation and configuration. The software interface for most platforms is simple and can be learned within a day.
The real reason for this question is twofold. You want to understand if there are complicated procedures involved and whether they have detailed instructions so you can do it on your own. If it’s complicated for some reason and there aren’t materials to guide you then it may be an overall indication of the level of support the provider will deliver.
The question isn’t whether or not you should get started with VoIP communication. The question is how to choose a VoIP provider that meets your needs. There are many choices available on the market and it can seem overwhelming when you just dive in.
This article has outlined some of the important questions you should be asking your potential VoIP partner before signing up for a subscription. If the answers aren’t to your liking or they don’t meet your needs, keep looking because there are many options available.
In essence, don’t fall in love with a solution before you’re sure it passes muster. Take a look around the site and read some of our detailed reviews to get a better idea of what to expect from a VoIP solution.