Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), a collection of technologies enabling voice communications over IP networks, has come a long way since its first commercial application over 20 years ago. It has successfully overcome its many obstacles, developing into a robust, reliable and extremely flexible communications solution. You would be hard-pressed to find any new business telephone system installed within the past couple of years based on technology other than VoIP.
In a previous article, we saw how reliable the technology has become. In this article, we look at the factors to consider when choosing VoIP services, especially services delivered within a UCaaS framework. This will help you choose the best provider for your particular business needs.
Investigate the reliability of your VoIP service providers
When selecting a VoIP provider, you want to ensure that the provider will operate with the standard five-nines reliability (fully operational 99.999% of the time). However, if you ask the provider whether their service is reliable, they’ll say “yes,” so it’s necessary to be more specific.
If telephony is mission-critical for your business, ask them to quantify their assertions. Consider the following questions:
- Do you have uptime reports for your cloud-based systems to support your claims?
- Where are your data centers located? Are they in more than one physical location?
- What redundancies have you built into your UCaaS infrastructure?
Pay attention not just to what providers say but how they say it. Providers that are evasive or are reluctant to provide the information you need are likely not the right fit for you.
Consider the infrastructure capacity of the VoIP provider
If a VoIP provider is relatively new to the market or generally has a smaller customer base, it is likely in a growing phase. Providers in this stage spend a lot of time and effort minimizing costs while maximizing profits. They add customers rapidly and can quickly overburden their own UCaaS infrastructure. This strain occurs because they can’t expand their systems fast enough to support the increasing demand.
These providers may have difficulty delivering exceptional service if they haven’t taken the proper precautions. If a provider boasts about rapid growth, ask them how they’re handling the strain on their infrastructure. Request guarantees with specific and measurable service level agreements to ensure you receive the level of service they claim to offer.
Assess the quality and availability of their technical support
Hopefully, you will never need tech support, but difficulties can arise, and you’ll need a knowledgeable and helpful support team backing up the service. If you’re concerned about the quality and availability of the tech support team, ask for statistics involving issue resolution times. If you’re a large client, ask if the provider can assign a specific tech support manager to be a single point of contact for all your technical queries.
Having these discussions with two or three different VoIP providers will help you determine which one will give you the best support to ensure peace of mind.
Conduct research before choosing a provider
Before you interview VoIP service providers, conduct some research to quickly exclude providers that aren’t a good match and identify the ones that could potentially deliver what you need. Here are some tips to get started:
- Assess their reputation: Read reviews of any service you are considering. Many reputable and impartial online review sites are trustworthy; find several that review the particular VoIP provider you are interested in and read all the pros and cons reported by the reviewers. If it’s challenging to find a review of the provider you are looking for, it would be best not to consider them at all. Also, beware of shill reviews. If most — or all — are short and uniformly consist of generic praise, caution is warranted.
- Ask for a trial period: Most respectable UCaaS providers will offer a free trial period so you can test their services to see if they’re right for your business. This allows you to examine their reliability and technical support and determine if their service is what your business needs.
- Look for the number of customers: Apart from reviews, successful VoIP providers have developed notable reputations over the years, reflected in the size of their customer base. A UCaaS provider that began service just last month and has several thousand customers is not likely to be as reliable as one that has been around for 10 years with a customer base in the millions.
Don’t be captivated by professional-looking web pages with gushing (but hand-picked) customer reviews and competitive pricing. Rushing in to become a customer of such a VoIP provider may prove to be costly to your business in the long run. Using the guidelines above and spending a little bit of extra time researching others’ experiences with potential UCaaS providers will be well worth it in the long run — saving you money and many sleepless nights worrying about the reliability of your service.
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