Most business owners and managers have at least given a passing glance to the idea of selecting a VoIP solution — whether to lower communications expenses, improve productivity, stay competitive, or some combination of these factors. Since it’s now becoming an imperative to give this new technology more than a passing glance, those in decision-making positions regarding selecting VoIP solutions likely will look to experts in the field for advice.
With businesses in mind, TMCnet asked one such knowledgeable person — Warren Sonnen, director of product management at Epygi (News - Alert) — to list five important factors companies should consider when selecting a VoIP solution. Sonnen built his list on a series of questions he said every business should ask itself.
First up: “What do I expect VoIP will do for my company?” Sonnen stressed that the decision to select a VoIP solution should not based solely on lowering long-distance phone bills. The benefits of VoIP go far beyond that basic form of cost savings.
“VoIP technology affects how a user can conduct business by using the same IP benefits as larger companies,” Sonnen told TMCnet.
For small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in particular, VoIP can provider a competitive edge simply not possible before this technology entered the picture. They can, for example, affordably set up virtual offices so key employees are available to customers from any place at any time. VoIP also benefits SMBs by being scalable and by providing customized migration paths from legacy PBX systems.
“In most cases an IP solution can be placed in an existing telephony network and immediately begin providing benefits,” Sonnen said.
The second question Sonnen would have businesses ask is: “Can I use VoIP with my current phone system?” This is really a roundabout way of asking whether upgrading to VoIP will require purchases of new hardware, such as particular types of IP phones. The answer to that question is no — it is possible to migrate to VoIP without having to buy new phones.
One method of achieving this type of migration is to incorporate an IP gateway into an existing network.
“For example, you can add an E1/T1 or FXO gateway and connect the digital or analog lines directly to the current system,” Sonnen explained.
Some businesses opt to instead add an IP PBX (News - Alert) and have it start handling future telephone needs while slowly moving existing users over from the old system.
Choosing the right VoIP solution vendor is important, Sonnen stressed, and should be done with migration in mind.
“Some IP systems lock users into a specific type of IP phone, while others support multiple vendors,” Sonnen said. “Business owners should spend some time reviewing the IP phone options available to them. The user friendliness and feature support of IP phones should be carefully reviewed before making a final decision.”
Third on the list, Sonnen said businesses should ask themselves, “What makes a successful VoIP implementation?” In other words, once a solution is picked and installed, how will the company know if its objectives in upgrading are met? One aspect of this, Sonnen said, is to think about the average installation time associated with a given VoIP solution.
Sonnen noted that average installation time for VoIP solutions — on both the end-user and reseller sides — can be significantly reduced by choosing the right vendor. For more commentary about successful implementation, he pointed readers to this page on Epygi’s Web site.
Next up, Sonnen said it is important to ask, “What are the risk factors?” This should be asked for each VoIP solution considered. Product reliability and how network security is handled are both important factors. Support is also crucial.
Finally, Sonnen noted that selecting a VoIP solution requires asking, “What is the total cost of ownership?” TOC is often overlooked because there are so many seemingly great “deals” available in the VoIP solutions market. When all expenses associated with buying, installing and maintaining a particular system are considered, however, it becomes possible to find out of these great deals are really not so great after all.
TOC will be different for a hosted VoIP solution versus an “on-premises” one. Likewise, a solution that focuses on converging various technologies will tend to lower TOC because it simplifies use and upkeep of a VoIP solution.
For more tips on how to choose a VoIP solution, please visit the Selecting VoIP Solutions channel on TMCnet.com, brought to you by Epygi.
Mae Kowalke is senior editor for TMCnet, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. To read more of Mae’s articles, please visit her columnist page. She also blogs for TMCnet here.
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