In the early days of mobile phones there was a stiff resistance as call costs were high and so were prices of instruments. Today, life without mobiles is unthinkable. It is the same in business communications: PSTN is on its way out and you simply cannot do without VoIP business communications. The normal thing to do is for businesses to choose a VoIP provider and that provider may also offer VoIP solutions such as call center software, IP PBX, SMS/voice broadcast, IVR and audio video conferencing. Quality of solutions and services varies so how do you zero in on the right provider for your business? This post could possibly help.
What you need and what they offer
There are dozens of VoIP providers to choose from but there may be a mismatch between what you need and what they offer.
What you need depends on the type of your business. Small business VoIP solution requirements differ from those of larger enterprises. For instance, the standard way is to opt for IP PBX but small businesses may find WebRTC based communications easier to use and easy on the pocket too. Larger enterprises would need IP PBX with all the bells and whistles including IVR, intercom, call transfers, facility to use SIP phones and softphones as well as mobility extensions. Large enterprise may have separate customer service and marketing divisions in which case you would need features such as skill based mapping and automatic call distribution as well as dialers for outbound campaigns. From time to time you may want extra services such as SMS/Voice broadcast for campaigns.
What VoIP service providers offer is the basic set up and also IP PBX, call center software and SMS/Voice broadcast or fax over IP software. These may be offered as Software as a Service in which case you pay a monthly subscription fee with options to add or remove modules such as audio-video conferencing and SMS broadcast. This is easy on the pocket but, for larger enterprises, it would entail higher running costs. The up side is you do not have to bother with software and hardware maintenance and upgrades. However, you may want to use specific brand software while the VoIP provider simply provides the platform. The one you choose should be flexible enough to allow you any of these two options.
Commercial terms and customer support
Terms vary from one VoIP provider to another. You could be offered modular packages with freedom to pick and choose and each package may offer limited set of functions and features. Then you have VoIP solutions that are modular and give you options to switch on or off or scale up or down according to needs. Obviously, you will want maximum flexibility to add or remove modules when needed. This factor does deserve a close look since you do not want to be tied into one package and then find it does not have features you need for which you need to upgrade to another package.
Customer support too is important. Some VoIP services may offer cheaper rates but leave you to manage the services. If you have a problem they may not have engineers to provide technical support and resolve issues.
Support is essential at the start too. You will certainly prefer VoIP providers who will take care to integrate software and hardware into your existing setup and set up DID and get you SIP phone numbers.
The backend may not directly concern you but it is an important consideration to determine quality of service. Quality of service impinges on audio clarity and jitter-free video. It is not out of place to examine the VoIP provider’s backend infrastructure.
Bandwidth: VoIP solution providers may not be quite transparent in letting you know about their infrastructure, especially the backbone connection. You will be using voice, video and fax and must have better than average quality. Each call requires about 64 kbps upstream and downstream, translating to 1 Mbps per person. Does your VoIP provider offer sufficient bandwidth? In order to reduce costs they may be working on a shared bandwidth model on the assumption that not all lines are active all the time. If there is increased traffic, call quality suffers. Your VoIP service provider should be able to offer guaranteed bandwidth for assured and consistent speeds and call clarity.
CRM? Does your provider offer integrated CRM or option to bring your own and integrate it with VoIP solutions? Get this point clarified.
Servers, hardware, software: Users are not much concerned or bothered about SIP servers, proxy servers and media gateways in the VoIP network but it does help to get clarification on technologies underlying these servers (OPENSIPs, for example, is carrier grade, capable of handling higher traffic, variety of media codecs and security). Even the basic server makes a difference. These days servers use multiple processors each with multiple core, fast DDR4 RAM and NVME drives. While on the topic you may also wish to know how they interface with PSTN lines. There are topics such as latency and number of concurrent calls the VoIP provider’s lines can handle (higher the better).
Security: It goes without saying that a VoIP provider should and must have session border controller layered over firewalls and servers to guarantee security. Going a step further, thoughtful providers will even provide software SBC solution for you at your network end. Do not even think about VOIP without SBC at your network edge.
VoIP software solutions give you features that facilitate work but it is the all important backbone infrastructure that will determine quality of service and calls.
The right VoIP provider is one who provides you what you need for your current operations at a reasonable price with assured QoS and then stays by your side as you grow. Find the right one and stick with them. Communications will be a seamless experience, which is the way it is meant to be.