What is a reliable business VoIP phone system in today’s market?

Today’s phone system and the service that goes with it are no longer simple commodities like they were before VoIP. To better answer this question, business owners first need to ask themselves what are some of the challenges/goals their businesses currently have. This will ultimately help define phone system needs better. Things like scalability, uptime, integration with software/databases, and flexibility to work with your operations could all be considered to be “reliable” characteristics. Of course, there is no limit to the amount of $ you could spend to improve reliability, so another consideration is to determine what is a reliable solution that fits your business that is affordable.

Why is VoIP a more reliable solution that traditional phone service?

Many people believe that VoIP, which uses the internet instead of traditional copper lines, is an unproven technology.  The fact is that every major carrier in the world uses VoIP to process their calls because of major efficiency and cost advantages.  Essentially, this means that every call made is a VoIP call, even if it’s made between two rotary phones over copper lines.

I heard with a VoIP phone system, if the internet goes down, my phone service is down.

Another common misconception is that when the internet goes down at a business, the phone system is down as well.  With most types of hosted PBX service, the business’s physical number exists in multiple data centers that have unmatched resiliency and uptime.  Therefore, when someone calls that business number, it always goes SOMEWHERE.  It may not reach the actual handset on the business desk if internet or power are down, but those calls can be redirected manually or automatically, since the actual phone system resides in the cloud.

Reducing/eliminating single points of failure with a hosted VoIP phone system.

Hosted VoIP also reduces the number of single points of failure that traditional premise-based phone systems are exposed to.  In order for traditional service to work 1) the PBX onsite must be functioning properly 2) the connection (copper lines, PRI) to the carrier need to be functioning and 3) the carrier (Verizon, AT&T, etc.) switch needs to be operational.  The third point of failure is more rare, but has much more devastating effects when it happens (Superstorm Sandy).  With a proper hosted VoIP architecture, business numbers remain up even in the event of a major disaster because of geographic carrier redundancy. Some VoIP phone systems offer unmatched geographic redundancy.

How does my business define reliability?

Many businesses have used the same piece of equipment for their phone system for many years and maintain a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude.  The problem with this mindset is that many times business owners fail to see the true scope of capabilities that today’s phone systems can offer.  For example, during a major snowstorm, workers may not be able to make it into an office.  The premise-based phone system may still be “up”, but business will likely suffer because worker capabilities will be reduced.  With a hosted PBX system, workers can seamlessly direct calls to their homes, and access other cloud-based systems, so that customers that call would have no idea that the employee they are talking to is not in the physical office.

I can see how hosted VoIP makes sense conceptually, but how do I know it will work?

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BC/DR) are just one consideration when it comes to reliability.  When using a VoIP system, there are many factors that can possibly contribute to a poor sounding call: jitter, latency, and network congestion are a just a few.  It is critical to align yourself with an experienced provider that knows VoIP inside and out, and isn’t just adding VoIP to their product set to be able to have another product in their arsenal.  If reliable phone service is important to your organization, you’ll need to select a provider that knows what they are doing and has the experience to be able to implement the service.  An experienced provider will understand the totality of your business’s network and own the entire solution.  An inexperienced provider will cast off blame and point fingers at other vendors.

What other features/functions should I rely on my phone system for?

Another form of reliability when it comes to phone systems is the actual functions that your workers rely on the system to perform, and how effortlessly they can use it to accomplish their goals. For example, having a customer service representative pull up a customer’s account information in a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) software automatically can save enormous amounts of time across an organization.  Recording calls and automatically placing them into a customer’s account record reduces confusion and inaccuracy.  Being able to seamlessly transfer a call to a cell phone mid-call allows busy executives and salespeople to continue important conversations on the go.  Understanding which coworkers are busy and available at a quick glance reduces the time to get critical information back to customers, and ultimately improves efficiencies.  These holistic considerations are the focus of true Unified Communications (UC) providers.

Who can help me determine which phone system is best for my business?

Having many options to choose from is both a blessing and a curse.  There are many competitive, robust offerings that can truly help businesses achieve growth they never thought possible.  There are also many confusing or unknowledgeable sales representatives and many providers who fall down when providing this critical service.  It is important to do your own research, and rely on unbiased sources with experience and who treat this question as an opportunity to be consultative, not just to fit a square peg in a round hole.

For a free consultation on business communications services, contact Hosted Authority at 215-754-5914 or [email protected]  Hosted Authority is a technology consulting firm that advises customers on communications and IT decisions. Our focus is on hosted, or cloud-based solutions, which represent the next revolution in business communications. Hosted Authority will compare and contrast these services with traditional solutions, which can still be advantageous in some business environments. In a landscape where solutions are disparate and information clouded, Hosted Authority leverages its experience and cuts through the clutter to offer the best solution to fit customers’ business needs.