15 Tips for Choosing the Best VoIP Provider for Your Business
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) allows phone calls to be made over LAN (Local Area Network) or WAN (Wide Area Network) networks, or via an internet connection, and it is a great means of communication for many businesses. If you have already determined that switching to VoIP is a good option for your business, then you are probably now trying to determine which VoIP provider will work best. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a VoIP provider for your business.
#1. Check That Your Internet Connection Can Handle VoIP
It doesn’t matter how great a VoIP provider is if your internet isn’t up to speed. If your internet connection can’t handle VoIP, it is highly unlikely that you’re going to get high call quality from any VoIP service provider. Your first step before doing any research into VoIP providers should be to ensure that you have a strong, stable internet connection that can support your network.
#2. Determine What Features You Need From Your VoIP Provider
What features are most important for keeping your employees and clients in touch? Call forwarding, call waiting, conference calling, and caller ID are some of the beneficial options available with Voice over IP. But are they just bonuses for your business? Or are they essential to how you communicate with your clientele? Evaluate what your company needs from its VoIP service to ensure that the providers you research offer features you need.
#3. Look for Established Providers
Now that you’re ready to start looking at individual VoIP providers, you’ll want to look for ones that are well-established as a secure, knowledgeable company. New companies should be approached with a healthy dose of caution, as they are less likely to stick around and could be more likely to offer you more headaches than help as they work out the bugs in their systems. A company that has been around for a while, though, is experienced and is more likely to remain in business, so your business VoIP services run more smoothly and uninterrupted.
#4. Verify That the VoIP Provider’s Service Will Work with Your Equipment
You can usually determine if a VoIP provider’s service will work with your equipment by looking at their website. Plenty of providers offer full lists of supported devices, and some will also work with you depending on your existing phones and internet routers. VoIP providers also, in some cases, have testing tools on their website to determine if your internet connection will support their services, so be sure to check. If these options aren’t available, make sure potential providers run some sort of network testing to make sure that your systems will work before you are roped into a contract.
#5. Inquire about Call Quality, Service Reliability, and Customer Support
Before signing up, you want to ask about quality and reliability. How will they make sure that you are getting the best call quality possible? Does the service provider have five nines (99.999%) reliability? How will they help you during the course of your partnership? Do they have 24/7 customer service and/or monitoring? These are questions you definitely want to ask during your inquiry into a business VoIP service provider.
#6. Find Out If They Have a Satisfaction Guarantee
A good VoIP company will be confident enough in their services to offer a satisfaction guarantee, usually something like “if you aren’t satisfied with our service, cancel within 30 days to get a full refund.” This serves two purposes. One, it reassures you that they are so sure of their quality that they are not afraid to offer this guarantee. Two, it protects you and your company from getting locked into a service only to find within a few weeks that it doesn’t suit your company’s needs.
#7. Determine How They Factor In Traffic and Bandwidth
Some business VoIP providers have sophisticated systems that prioritize calls during high traffic situations, limiting call interruptions due to traffic issues. Many companies will also advise you on the bandwidth needed to facilitate clean, seamless VoIP experiences for your clients and employees. Make sure this is the case with the VoIP provider you choose to save you from headaches down the road.
#8. Ask About Their Redundancies and Disaster Recovery Protocols
If a problem occurs on either their end or yours, especially if you live in an area prone to natural disasters (i.e. hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes), you want to choose a business VoIP provider that has a backup plan, or even a few backup plans, to make sure that your business gets back up and running as quickly as possible. Furthermore, check on their redundancies to see what they do to make sure that failures don’t happen in the first place.
#9. Ensure That They Offer Local Area Codes
You don’t want local residents paying long distance when your business is only ten miles away from them. Make sure that the business VoIP phone service provider you choose offers local area codes, or better yet, lets you keep your own number, even if you stop service with them. After all, having to change phone numbers can be extremely confusing and problematic for your business.
#10. Make Sure They Have E911 Available
While it’s true that VoIP services do not connect in the traditional manner to 911, quality VoIP providers can connect to enhanced 911 services (also called E911). It is important that the VoIP provider you choose has access to E911, as these services still allow dispatchers to see your location and phone number in the case of an emergency call.
#11. Find Out about International Call Rates
It’s a good idea to find out about this even if you aren’t currently operating internationally, just in case. You may find yourself expanding before you know it and you want to be sure that you won’t get overcharged and that you have the option to use these features either now or in the future.
#12. Ask about Upfront Costs
Don’t get blindsided—find out if there are any upfront costs and what they are for. Sometimes these are called installation charges. Not all companies charge these fees, though, so make sure to figure that into your overall costs and evaluation of which company’s VoIP phone service for business will best suit your needs.
#13. Read Reviews
This is where you verify the information you got from the company itself, at least to some degree. It is important to take reviews with a grain of salt, as many people are more apt to write a bad review than a good one. However, if you’re consistently seeing complaints about the same problem with a particular VoIP provider, especially if they are recent, you may want to steer clear.
#14. Check into ALL Fees, ALL Terms, and ALL Features
It’s understandable that you want to keep your overhead as low as possible, but when choosing the best VoIP provider for your business, make sure you are not just taking price into consideration. You should also know exactly what you are getting for that price. This is when you double check everything. Ask your potential service providers for a full, written list of which features are included at each price point and which ones cost extra. Then, make sure you go through and thoroughly check for any hidden fees or terms. For example, some companies may charge you for checking your voicemail, and others may lock you in with software licensing. Make sure this isn’t the case before you agree to any contracts. Only by doing these things can you get a full picture of what you are paying and what you are paying for, and as a result, accurately compare providers that might be right for you.
#15. When in Doubt, Call in the Experts
Customer First Communications offers VoIP installation and phone system solutions that suit a variety of business sizes and types. Our IT infrastructure design and implementation services (including VoIP) are customized to fit your budget and your timeline. Give us a call at 855-TECH-C1C (855-832-4212) or contact us online for a free consultation, and we’ll get you, your employees, and your clients talking in no time.