Four things to look for from your VoIP provider

By: Matthew Guise

Date: 17 March 2014

Four things to look for from your VoIP provider/A typical VoIP phone{{}}As the popularity of voice over internet protocol (VoIP) telephone systems grows, more businesses are considering switching from their traditional telephone setups.

But if you’re considering taking the plunge and evaluating VoIP suppliers, how can you make sure you get a reliable, high-quality service?

Never heard of VoIP? Learn the basics of VoIP.

1. What sort of broadband connection do you have?

If you don’t have a decent internet connection, there’s no point in even considering VoIP.

To enjoy decent call quality, you really need a dedicated internet connection for your VoIP system. The number of people who can make calls at once depends on the speed of your connection, so some companies need more than one connection.

Determine out how many people are likely to be making calls at the same time and then check your broadband connection has enough capacity.

Some VoIP services — like Skype — work on slower connections by significantly compressing the data they send and receive. However, this can sometimes reduce the quality of calls dramatically.

Worried about call quality if you switch to VoIP? A large volume of regular phone calls already get routed over the internet, so there’s an excellent chance you have already experienced VoIP call quality without noticing the difference.

2. What equipment do you need?

When you’re choosing a VoIP phone (or another device) to use with your connection, choosing the cheapest equipment is a false economy.

As with anything, you get what you pay for. If you spend a lot of time on the phone then it’s wise to spend a little extra for hardware that will perform consistently and stand the test of time.

3. Should you get a virtual switchboard?

One of the most attractive features of VoIP is that you can replace a traditional physical switchboard (often called a PBX) with a virtual switchboard. A virtual switchboard is basically software running on a server in the cloud.

This saves you a small fortune in purchasing, maintaining, repairing and ultimately replacing a physical unit.

When choosing a VoIP provider, make sure they offer a fully featured, reliable virtual switchboard. Many providers offer basic services, but not all have the advanced options your business may need as it grows.

It is also a good idea to look for a supplier that is an Ofcom registered SS7 carrier, rather than a reseller or VoIP only provider, as this ensures a direct connection to the UK network.

4. How much will calls cost?

It pays to shop around when you’re choosing a VoIP supplier. When you do, be sure to compare the call rates you’re signing up to. Virtually all VoIP services will be cheaper than a traditional telephone system, but some are better value than others.

Watch for headline rates that seem too good to be true. Often there are hidden costs that will mount up. Some providers offer all-inclusive fixed priced deals. These can be worth investigating as they mean your costs are predictable.

With so many businesses already using it, it’s hard to argue that VoIP isn’t the future of telephony. If you’ve not yet taken the plunge, now is an excellent time to make the change from a traditional system.

Matthew Guise works for hosted telephony firm Callagenix.

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