Recently, Blair Pleasant (News - Alert) and Dave Michels of UCStrategies set out to identify and profile several hosted services targeted at small businesses, concentrating on those of fewer than 20 users.
Their findings are presented in a long write-up, well worth reading—providing an immense amount of detail on the subject.
One interesting point was made when they reported the results of interviewing five hosted providers for the SMB market, “focusing on features/capabilities, pricing, service, and other aspects that end users should consider when making their vendor selections.”
They came up with some key observations for comparing the products and quotes from various hosted voice service providers:
Access. All firms interviewed expect the customer to use the public Internet for access. There was very little discussion or concern about the quality of service issues that could arise from use of the public Internet. Most providers have some tools to test the bandwidth, but none offered regular monitoring or troubleshooting for network congestion. None of the firms offered strong assurances or SLAs regarding the overall experience or system availability.
Comparing pricing is extremely difficult. There is no consistency or simple way to compare vendors’ pricing, as some features are included in pricing bundles and others are sold a la carte. They recommend that customers prepare a list of the features and functionality required for each user and try to compare apples-to-apples as best as possible.
The hosted VoIP providers all offered the basic calling features—unlimited local and long distance calling, automated attendant, visual voicemail/unified messaging, Call forward/Call transfer/Call waiting, Enhanced E911, dial by name, Caller ID, Do Not Disturb, Ring (or Blast) Group, Find Me/Follow Me, call rules and scheduling, call log reporting, call recording, and other basic call functions.
Where the vendors differ, they found, “is in more advanced features such as contact center capabilities, advanced mobility, conferencing, unified communications, desktop controls, and advanced unified communications capabilities.”David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.
Edited by Janice McDuffee