Narrowing the List of Hosted VoIP Providers

Posted by Mark Greim on Oct 24, 2016 11:07:28 AM

If your business is ready to make the switch to hosted VoIP phone service, or you are ready to look for alternatives to the national hosted VoIP providers, how do you narrow down the seemingly large group of alternative providers in the marketplace?  It isn't an easy task and it will take a little effort.  However, the reward for find the right solution for your business will benefit you for years to come.

Choosing_a_Hosted_VoIP_Provider.jpgThe national hosted VoIP provider list is well known, and they certainly dominate internet searches for a variety of terms.  Their features are, as expected, robust and cutting edge.  However, for all of the reasons you were ready to move away from your old phone service provider, they possess many of the same challenges, namely customer service.  This article will focus on how to find and what to look for in an alternative hosted VoIP provider.

There are many out there, and finding the right one is important to your business.  There are IT service companies who dabble in VoIP telephony as an additional service line to their business.  They are either reselling or white labeling a larger provider's service or have created a VoIP service line using a PBX firmware.  Be wary of resellers or companies who do not focus on or specialize in VoIP.  Look for companies that operate their own VoIP service and have been in business for at least ten years.  These providers have stood the test of time and are responsible for their own customer service and customer experience.  Below are some other areas that will help you narrow the list:

Look for a Local Provider - There's nothing better than being supported by a local provider. How refreshing will it be when your phone company actually knows you and your business?  There are companies with a national footprint that provide the "feeling" of local support, and this is also acceptable.  If their customer references provide testimony that the customer service delivered is grounded in specific customer knowledge and relationships, then this is the hosted VoIP provider for you!

Concierge, not Self-Service - One of the models of the large VoIP providers is to place responsibility for the system programming upon the customer through a web portal.  This shifts the cost of administration from the provider to the customer.  Not all businesses have a dedicated IT staff to handle such activity and not all portals are robust enough to handle more sophisticated call flow and design.  There are hosted VoIP providers that see the administration as their responsibility and do not charge for providing updates and any call flow adjustments.  As your business moves more activity to the cloud, finding a hosted VoIP provider that handles all of your telephony updates and maintenance will help you actually drive savings from your move to VoIP.

Customization - If you are able to locate a provider that delivers a feeling of local support as well as handles your phone administration, chances are they are able to customize their system to meet the needs of your business.  There is a large degree of customization that can be delivered.  If the provider holds meetings with your business in advance of installation to understand your unique requirements and to program call flow and other features to match those needs, then you have the right hosted VoIP provider.  Ask the prospective provider what the install process is like.  Look for a configuration meeting where they would gather the information required to provision the phones prior to installation.  If the provider speaks to delivering a website interface for self-provisioning, then you will be challenged to maximize the benefit of the system.  Not all portals can capture the full range of VoIP programming capabilities.  If they do, they typically are too complex to be handled by your staff, or will certainly require a lot of time by your staff to be ready for implementation.

Features - You are looking for a provider that has a robust set of features that will actually advance your business and improve your communications.  For the most part, such features should be included in the standard monthly fee.  If you see that you are charged by feature or for features that should be considered as standard, you are likely dealing with a reseller or white label VoIP provider.  Many providers look to make their standard user fee to be published as low as possible, then ramp it back up with add on features and surcharges.  Others include the majority of the features in their standard fee.  Going through a proposal process with multiple providers should identify one approach from the other.

VoIP Phone Selection - There are a variety of VoIP phone options out there for you.  They vary widely in price, sophistication, and quality.  One of the reasons to look at moving to hosted VoIP is to gain the benefit of not purchasing or maintaining a phone system ever again.  Your purchase of the actual VoIP phones is important to match your ultimate goal.  Going with the top end manufacturers of VoIP phones like Cisco or Polycom will ensure you will have a quality phone with a solid warranty and lifetime expectation.  Additionally, there will be a clear upgrade path as time goes on. You should also ask the provider if their phones could be reused by another provider if you should choose to make a change.

Finding a hosted VoIP provider that best matches the needs of your business is not an easy task, but is well worth the effort.  The answer is not always with the ones you see advertised heavily on the web and other areas.  There are gems out there.  Find one who conducts business the way you do! 


About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: voip service provider selection, Hosted VoIP, Changing Phone Service Providers

My Phone System is Failing! What do I do?

Posted by Mark Greim on Sep 23, 2016 11:36:40 AM

Every business with an analog phone system faces this question at some point.  The first sign that something is wrong typically is that you are having difficulty securing replacement handsets or other components.  The manufacturer has long since put that system on "end-of-life" and is looking for you to upgrade to their newer model.  You're able to hold on for a while by finding parts on Ebay until your actual service vendor indicates that they will no longer be able to support your system, which really disturbs you because you've been spending a small fortune with them to keep the phone system alive!

My_Phone_System_Crashed.jpgDoes this sound familiar?  We hear from businesses all the time who have been able to hold off on phone system replacement, but have been experiencing these end-of-life conditions and spending a lot of money and resources to avoid the replacement.  The worst feeling is the fear that something catastrophic will happen to their system and they won't be able to get it back going again.

Well, there is good news for you.  Most businesses have or are moving to a Hosted VoIP service.  What this means is that they will never have to worry about phone system replacement again!  Moreover, because they are not actually buying a phone system to sit on-site and they are only purchasing the VoIP handsets, the cost to do this is much lower than purchasing a replacement system.  It may even be less than the maintenance costs spent annually to keep your old phone system alive!

phone.jpgHow is this possible?  The Hosted VoIP provider is responsible for maintaining the phone system and keeping it state-of-the-art.  Your business will receive the benefits of service enhancement and never have to monetarily fund or physically replace a phone system again.  Your VoIP handsets should last years.  At sipVine, we use Polycom or Cisco phones and we rarely have one go bad.  If one is damaged, it can simply be replaced.  If that model is no longer available, you would receive the upgraded model and it would work alongside your other phones without issue.  There are not many areas of infrastructure investment where you are no longer concerned with obsolescence.

Virtual_Phone_Mobility.jpgWhen you begin your review of Hosted VoIP services, you will see a vast number of areas of improvement when compared to your old phone system.  Providers may have different approaches, but you should be able to program you flow of calls and your auto attendant to better match the needs of your internal and external customers.  You can create situations where your customers always get to the person or group they are looking for.  There are strong features surrounding mobility and virtual office locations.  The general feature set is robust, providing small and medium-sized businesses with an enterprise level phone system.

The bottom line is that you should be able to save money on the monthly service and the upfront purchase of the capital.  You will become more efficient and improve your communications with your customers.  And, you'll never have to search Ebay again for replacement parts!  So, if your phone system is failing, contact a Hosted VoIP provider today!


About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: Hosted VoIP, Phone System Replacement

Reminder:  Your Telecom Term Contract is Expiring

Posted by Mark Greim on Aug 18, 2016 1:55:46 PM

This is the year! You placed a reminder on your calendar that your business telecommunications term contract is expiring.  Every year, you've been burned by the dreaded auto renewal provision that is in the fine print somewhere and this is the year you are going to break from the shackles of term contracts and make a change in your phone service!

Reminder_Telecom_Contract_Expiring.jpgLet's recall why you want to make a change.  The phone service contracts seem to be very one-sided.  They auto renew "as a service" to make sure you are able to keep the "good" rates.  However, your phone bill seems to grow as each year passes.  Moreover, your current phone service ties you into your old, analog phone system.  You've seen your business peers and competitors switching to hosted VoIP phone service and have heard about all of the cool features that can benefit your company.  Time to dust off your old research and review.

Reasons to Move to Hosted VoIP:

State-of-the-art technology for a small investment.  Analog phone systems are a thing of the past.  You can take advantage of the myriad of features but not break the budget in doing so.  With hosted phone service, you only need to purchase the VoIP handsets.  The phone system is managed and maintained by the hosted VoIP provider.  Additionally, you do not need to worry about the system becoming obsolete, as that again is the responsibility of the provider.  Thus, not only is your current investment cost low, you will not have to invest in a system ever again!

Monthly savings.  Many times, the monthly cost of hosted VoIP service is lower than your current phone service spend.  You are able to calculate a direct return on investment without even considering the indirect benefits driven by a hosted phone service.

Features to benefit your business.  There are many standard features that come with hosted VoIP service, such as voicemail to email.  The real benefit is driven by the opportunity to improve your internal and external communication practices.  Primarily this involves the programming of call flow, the auto attendant, and other features to delight your customers.  This can include direct dial numbers, mobility features for your sales / service teams, hunt groups or queues, and other practices that can increase the accessibility of your associates to your customers.

Virtualization.  Because the phone system is no longer on a wall in your equipment room and is accessible via the internet, your phones are not confined to the four walls of your office.  You can integrate several locations, remote employees, and mobile employees into one system.  This will improve your internal efficiencies.  Plus, the external customer can be served by the appropriate associate no matter where they are located.

Provider Selection:

No contracts.  You can start with hosted VoIP providers who do not require term contracts.  You've experienced the negatives associated with being tied to such contracts with your current telecom provider, why go down that path again?  You'll find this segment of providers to be more flexible and desirous of not being categorized with the traditional approach to telecom.

Customization.  No business is the same.  The customer service strategies, call flow, and operating principles are unique to the business and management philosophy.  Find a provider who will take on the customization of their system to match your business.  Many VoIP providers hand over an on-line portal for you to handle all of your administration and design.  Instead, look for the providers who will handle all of this for you.

Approach to customer service.  If you find a provider that offers no contracts and will handle the configuration and administration of your service, chances are they will also have the right approach to customer service.  With no contracts, they are incented to serve your business well every day.  By customizing your service, they get to know your business very well.  By performing your phone administration, they use this knowledge and this incentive to respond expeditiously and with contextual expertise. 

Check references.  It's always good to discuss their approach to service with several of their current customers.

Time to move!  Select your provider and your phones.  Discuss your requirements and set a time frame for porting your numbers.  And, don't forget to notify your previous provider that you are no longer going to be a victim of their auto-renewal practices!


About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: Hosted VoIP, Telecom Term Agreements

If it isn't broke....ah, go with Hosted VoIP anyway!

Posted by Mark Greim on Jun 14, 2016 12:24:52 PM

Finally!  The last of the businesses remaining on their antiquated analog phone systems are making the move to Hosted VoIP.  This communication model has proven itself over the past decade and is now the platform of choice for businesses. 

Finally_Make_the_Move_to_VoIP.jpgThere are several signs that the technology has been fully embraced.  Just listening to prospective clients calling in, they are more educated on the technology than ever before.  This certainly wasn't the case ten years ago.  Businesses are also switching service from one VoIP provider to another.  Again, years ago, all business came from traditional telecom providers or cable companies providing phone service.  And, finally, many businesses who were proposed a VoIP system several years ago are now calling back in looking to make the change!

So, why now are these holdovers making the move?  These are the folks that delivered the classic lines of "my phone system has been working fine for 15 years, why move?" and "I've been with the phone company for many years and they've never let me down."  Well, no matter what new technology is introduced, you will have your late adopters.  Also, when hosted VoIP was in its early stages, the economy wasn't exactly sound.  Infrastructure investments were postponed and phone systems were certainly among the casualties.  Now, these businesses are ready for the change.

These late adopters have heard all they need to hear from their business peers about the values brought to them by the features and benefits of a hosted VoIP system.  Additionally, their phone systems are now on the later stages of their useful life.  They are having difficulty securing parts and their vendors are pushing them to upgrade into a new system by not supporting their old system.  They are also finding that the phone company who "never let them down" has been overcharging them for years and holding them to automatic renewal terms that they never considered reviewing.  Some business were ready for the switch, but found themselves still tied into a three year renewal.

The best news for these late adopters is that they will no longer need to worry about phone system obsolescence.  In fact, they are not purchasing a phone system at all, just VoIP handsets that tie to the hosted VoIP provider's system.  It is up to the hosted VoIP provider to continue to invest in their system and maintain it, not the business customer.  They now can take advantage of the advancement in their communications platform, improving their customer service in the process.

So, if you are a business still hanging onto your analog phone system, it is time to check out your alternative.  Contact a hosted VoIP provider today and investigate all of the advantages that can be brought to your business.  Being a late adopter, you will also have the benefit of working with a hosted VoIP provider who has stood the test of time. 


About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: Hosted VoIP, Technology in Business

Why is VoIP the Technology of Choice for Business?

Posted by Mark Greim on May 13, 2016 10:11:41 AM

These are exciting times for businesses across the country, as the infrastructure supporting technological advancement has expanded dramatically.  With the introduction of superfast internet speeds available to businesses by Google Fiber, and followed by competitive responses from other providers, the backbone of this infrastructure now allows businesses to make technology choices they were not able to in recent years.  Businesses are taking advantage of this opportunity to invest in cloud applications and technology to improve their processes as well as margins.  This includes investments in voice over internet (VoIP) systems and service.

Businesses_Moving_to_VoIP.jpgVoIP applications have been around for many years now.  The availability of greater bandwidth has removed the final barrier for businesses to make the switch to the technology.  Even though a VoIP call only requires around 80k/second of internet capacity, increasing utilization of an organization's bandwidth for other applications would create contention for bandwidth.  Without packet prioritization routines, voice packets could be interrupted by data packets and create a poor call quality experience.  With internet speeds approaching one gigabit/second (1000mb/s!), contention or circuit saturation is no longer a concern.

So, why are businesses moving to hosted VoIP systems and services?  The reasons are plentiful, and the driving factor may vary by business.  Simply put, hosted VoIP is an affordable way to advance their communication practices, driving a host of direct and indirect benefits back to the business.

Affordability.  The phone system is actually provided in the cloud by a Hosted VoIP provider.  The business no longer needs to invest in a system on a wall in their business.  They only need to purchase the VoIP phone handsets.  Thus, they are receiving an enterprise-level phone system at a fraction of the cost.

Obsolescence and Maintenance.  These concerns and costs are removed with Hosted VoIP applications.  It is the responsibility of the provider to continue to invest in their system and evolve their service.  Finding parts for an old phone system or paying for repairs as a system ages is no longer required.  The only hardware exposure is with the handsets themselves.  If they ever need replacing, the cost is a minor expense.  As time goes on, new VoIP phones may be available in the provider's line-up, and they can be mixed in if and when replacements are required.

Expansion and Growth Considerations.  Businesses no longer need to worry about sizing their phone system to account for business growth.  This is especially beneficial to start-ups, as they don't need to over-invest on a phone system nor replace and undersized and under-featured system as they grow.  With hosted VoIP, you only need to deploy the number of handsets based upon the number of employees needing phones.

Flexible Deployment.  Because this is a cloud-based system, business can deploy the phones outside of the confinement of the walls of their office!  This frees the business to enable a remote workforce, whether they are at home, in a remote office, or highly mobile.  Calls to these associates can be made with internal extensions.  To the external caller, they will have no idea that calls are made and received outside of the business location.  Additionally, highly mobile employees can have a duplicate account of their desk phone, or a stand-alone account if they don't have a desk phone, on a softphone application on their smartphone or laptop.  Thus, they can make and receive calls from these devices and deliver the caller ID for the business.

Advanced Features.  There's a huge feature set available with Hosted VoIP systems, so it is likely businesses will have several that carry appeal and deliver value.  Examples are voicemail to email, call recording, direct dial numbers, external transferring, find-me/follow-me, paging solutions, call detail records, and much more.  Such features open up a world of applications that leave antiquated analog phones systems in the dust.

Call Flow.  One of the greatest attributes of the Hosted VoIP phone system is that it is essentially a software program.  Good Hosted VoIP providers work with their customers to design a call flow that matches their unique requirements and improves their communication practices.  You shouldn't have to conform to how the system works, rather make it work to maximize your customers' satisfaction.  Ring groups, call queues, time of day routing, and on-call programming are among the many tools available to have calls handled just the way you want them.

Automated Attendant.  Many bristle at just the idea of an automated attendant, however, when deployed correctly, this can be a powerful tool available to a business.  First, you have a choice of whether you deploy the automated attendant before or after a ring pattern.  Thus, it can serve as your call traffic cop or as a back up to your initial call groups.  The goal is to be able to route callers to the person that will best handle their needs.  Good automated attendants are made up of a few options that cover the majority of the needs of your callers.  Multiple options and layers only serve to frustrate callers.  Again, a good Hosted VoIP provider can provide consultation and best practices to set up an attendant in the way that will suite your business the best.

VoIP phone systems also have great appeal among businesses with multiple branches or locations.  They are able to consolidate the provider of their service, create consistency among locations, create efficiencies through extension dialing and transferring or even some function efficiency.  For example, you can centralize a function, say the reception function, so incoming calls from all locations are funneled to a central group for distribution.  Or, you can decentralize a function, such as customer service, so that the related ring group or queue is distributed across multiple locations for more efficiencies.  To the external caller, they have no idea that their call is handled in a centralized or decentralized approach.

Finally, Hosted VoIP providers are turning the telecommunications industry upside down.  There are opportunities to work with local providers that have set the bar high for customer service and technological excellence.  The new telecom bundle is your phone service and phone system together.  This puts the Hosted VoIP provider in a great position to get to know your business and provide awesome customer service commensurate with that understanding.  Find one today and take advantage of all of the benefits to your business!

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: Hosted VoIP, Technology in Business

Hosted VoIP - The Perfect Complement to Nonprofit Organizations

Posted by Mark Greim on Apr 18, 2016 10:30:00 AM

Nonprofit Organizations help make your communities a better place. Hosted VoIP Phone Service delivers affordable, feature-rich services that help businesses improve their communications practices. Thus, nonprofits who have chosen to utilize hosted VoIP phone service are better positioned to deliver to their constituents.

Phone_Service_for_Non_Profit_Organizations.jpgCustomized Solutions.  Nonprofit Organizations come in many shapes and sizes with varying missions or areas of focus.  Whether they are fulfilling a charitable cause, religious purpose, business association, educational endeavor, healthcare need, and more, hosted VoIP phone service can be molded to best create benefits to the particular organization's requirements. Because the service is essentially a software program, the ability to custom build the solution is certainly there.  Good hosted VoIP providers consult with your organization and handle the programming before the phones are even installed. 

Financial Advantages.  Nonprofit organizations are mindful of their expenses and capital purchases associated with their administration and infrastructure, keeping their income sources strongly positioned to fulfill their mission.  Hosted VoIP services provide a great opportunity to have a state-of-the-art phone system without spending money on the system itself.  Because the actual phone system is resident with the hosted VoIP provider, only the VoIP handsets are purchased by the customer, thus keeping the capital outlay to a minimum.  Additionally, the monthly service may drive additional savings, dependent upon their current number of phone lines and price per line.

Another key financial advantage is that this will be the last phone system you will ever need to deploy.  Obsolescence is no longer a factor, as the responsibility to upgrading and keeping the system up to standards rests with the hosted provider.  As the actual phones age or are damaged they can simply be replaced with a current model of phone being supported by the provider.  Replacement costs of phones are much less than a system conversion years down the road.

Some hosted VoIP providers, like sipVine, Inc., provide additional benefits to the nonprofit community.  "We recognize that we have an opportunity to indirectly give back to the community by offering special rates and discounts to our nonprofit customers," states Robert Conner, sipVine's CEO.  "It is a special benefit that we gladly share, and the collective savings among our nonprofit customer base is quite substantial."

Features.  Just because an organization is fulfilling a nonprofit mission, it doesn't mean that it isn't run like a normal business.  These organizations delight in the enterprise-level features that a hosted phone service can deliver.  Like most commercial businesses, the features that resonate most with the particular nonprofit organization can differ company to company.  Whether it is an automated attendant that effectively routes callers, the voicemail to email feature to keep associates informed of important messages, direct dial numbers to satisfy key contacts, paging systems, time of day routing, holiday scheduling, and more, the features within a hosted VoIP system can vastly improve the communication practices and efficiency of the organization.

If your nonprofit organization hasn't explored the many benefits of a hosted VoIP phone service, contact a hosted provider today.  Exceptional providers will be able to understand your particular need and help map out an affordable solution that will deliver benefits for years to come.

 About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments.

Tags: Phone Service for Non-Profit Organizations

Lawyers, Contracts, and Phone Service

Posted by Mark Greim on Mar 15, 2016 10:03:40 AM

On the surface, these three items fit well together.  Lawyers write contracts and need phone service.  Phone service providers have contracts. Well, only two of these things need to belong together...lawyers and phone service!  Many hosted VoIP phone providers are re-writing the rules in the communications industry and not requiring their customers to sign term contracts!

Term_Contacts_bad_for_Phone_Service.jpgIn taking such a position, these hosted VoIP providers are displaying tremendous confidence in their service delivery and billing practices.  "When we started the business ten years ago, we knew just how frustrated business owners were with being held to term contracts for their telecommunication services," indicates Robert Conner, CEO of sipVine, Inc.  "We wanted to take a dramatically different position in how we approach customer service and contracts.  By not requiring term contracts, we are seen as more of an extension of a business rather than a provider.  Thus, our customer churn rate is negligible."

Although attorneys have a place in their heart for contracts, they gravitate towards these "no-contract" providers for the benefits they can deliver to their firm.  Like other businesses, hosted VoIP phone service appeals to law firms for a variety of reasons:

  • An Enterprise-level System at a Low Capital Investment - Many attorneys starting their own firm or managing their own firm have worked for a large practice before and have experience with the value of an enterprise-grade phone system. Where a hosted product can deliver similar features, it comes at a capital price tag of a fraction of an on-site phone system.  Because the actual phone system exists in the "cloud" (really the data center of the hosted VoIP provider), all the law firm needs to purchase are the VoIP phones and some other minor equipment.  VoIP handset manufacturers differ in price and quality, but it is easy to secure high quality VoIP handsets from a top tier manufacturer (such as Cisco and Polycom) between $100 and $200.  Thus, the price of their "system" is minor in comparison to on-site systems.
  • Features that will Enhance their Communications - The features available with a hosted VoIP phone system are vast and have broad appeal. Attorneys utilize many, but several drive specific benefits to the firm. Examples include call detail records to aid billing efforts, call recordings to assist documentation, voicemail to email to relay important messages while the attorney is away from the office, and automated attendants to best route callers to the right individual.
  • Custom Settings - Call flow design can direct callers to paralegal or other support as a screening step before an attorney is engaged. Good hosted VoIP providers can custom build a call routing routine that matches exactly the desires of the firm and which will better serve their customer base.
  • Expert Administration - Law firms are in the business to serve clients, not to spend resources on administering their phone system. Good hosted phone companies provide administrative services for their clients, leaving law firms to practice law. Even self-service portals can take time away from the practice, so a telephone "concierge" service is very well received by firms of all sizes.

"Although sipVine serves many businesses from all market segments, one of our most highly represented vertical markets is the legal profession," continues Conner.  "Certainly, the features and benefits are a big driver, but how we support them has created a very loyal base.  They also network with each other well, and we're always receiving new clients based upon a recommendation from one of our law firm customers."

If you are a law firm, or a business who is compelled by similar features and benefits, a hosted VoIP system is a perfect fit.

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: phone service for professional service firms

Moving to Gigabit Internet?  Prepare Your Infrastructure.

Posted by Mark Greim on Feb 16, 2016 11:04:26 AM

As Google Fiber continues with its construction of a fiber network and expands its business internet service to additional cities across the country, businesses of all sizes are preparing to reap the benefits of superfast internet speeds and expanded capacity.  Normally, these superfast speeds will approach 1000mb/s.  Traditional bandwidth providers are responding to Google Fiber with speed expansion and lower prices of their own.  Competition in this area is benefitting businesses and they need to be ready to take advantage of it.

Prepare_Your_Infrastructure_for_Gigabit_Internet_and_VoIP.jpgGigabit internet capacity will allow businesses to do business differently, especially those who have been stuck with lower speed internet service due to availability or affordability.  Obviously, sipVine and other Hosted VoIP providers would suggest that it is a great time to join the movement to VoIP services.  But, there are many other applications that can come into play for organizations, such as cloud storage and backups, cloud applications, and other remote hosting opportunities.  Many such applications will save businesses money, remove disaster risk, and open the door for outsourcing of other activities.

First, we need to clear up some misconceptions associated with moving to gigabit internet speeds.  Many businesses are of the belief that moving to internet speeds close to a gigabit/second will make their internet utilization operate at lightning speed.  Unless the internal network infrastructure is addressed, this is simply not the case.  Moreover, even with infrastructure upgrades, downloading files and streams will only move as fast as the responding web server will allow.  A better way of looking at your superfast internet connection would be that it allows your organization to have more capacity to access applications, download information, and perform other internet activities across all workstations at the same time without concerns over saturating the internet circuit and creating slowdowns.

Thus, there are several areas of consideration for network infrastructure improvements to prepare your organization to take advantage of superfast internet speeds.

  • Router Upgrades - most routers deployed by small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) simply do not have the horsepower to handle gigabit throughput. Even with the internet upgrade, your router will throttle back the throughput to its capabilities.  For example, most firewalls over two years old will only allow you to access 1/10th of your gigabit internet connection. 
  • Network Switches - typical network switches deployed by SMBs have 100mb/s ports. This essentially means that each individual connecting locally to the network will be limited to the 100mb/s speeds over the local area network and out over the internet.  Again, even with this limitation, every user can be accessing or utilizing the internet at high speeds simultaneously.  If you would like to remove this internal restriction, upgrading your network switch to one with gigabit ports would do the trick.
  • VoIP Phone Ports - for businesses who have already moved to a VoIP phone service and share an Ethernet connection for their phone and computer will potentially need to upgrade their VoIP Phone. Most VoIP phones with dual Ethernet ports have a 100mb/s port for a pass through to their computer.  This will place the same limitation as a 100mb/s switch, even if your router and network switch have been upgraded to gigabit speeds.  Most VoIP phone manufacturers have models with gigabit ports and your Hosted VoIP provider can work with you to upgrade your phones to those models.  Consideration can be made to which employees would actually require such throughput to limit your re-investment.  If you haven't gone with a Hosted VoIP provider yet, make sure you receive proposals with gigabit VoIP phone options.
  • Computers - the last point of throughput restriction is in your computer. Like the phones and network switches, computers have Ethernet ports that will need to be evaluated for their capacity.  Newer computers should have an Ethernet port that is capable of gigabit speeds.  If your computer is old enough to where it has a 100mb/s Ethernet card, you could go through the steps of replacing the card and drivers.  However, it will likely also have a slower processer and hard drive, so it may be a prudent time to replace the computer so you can fully take advantage of the speeds of your upgraded network.

google-fiber-tech-partner.pngRealizing that many SMBs do not have on site IT resources to help prepare your organization for this conversion, it will be advisable to work with consultants who can effectively guide you through this infrastructure upgrade.  In the cities where Google Fiber is present, there are IT and VoIP providers, such as sipVine, who have been certified as Google Fiber Tech Partners.  These companies can assist you in this decision making, and many have applications as well that will allow you to fully take advantage of your superfast internet speeds!


About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: VoIP Bandwidth Requirements, Technology in Business

Why IT Professionals Recommend Hosted VoIP to their Customers

Posted by Mark Greim on Jan 11, 2016 2:15:57 PM

Many small and medium-sized businesses outsource their information technology activities to IT professionals or firms.  IT for the SMB market has become much more than the management of the network.  It includes moving various applications to the cloud for great efficiency and monetary advantages.  To that end, contracted IT professionals and firms have become a key influencer of technology decisions in business.  It is for these reasons that we are seeing many referrals for Hosted VoIP services originating from recommendations from a business's IT professional.

IT_Professionals_Choose_Hosted_VoIP.jpgDigging deeper into the reasons why IT professionals are moving their business clients to Hosted VoIP services, we find that most are tied with keeping their clients moving forward with the general advancement of technology.  Improving their business and processes through technology is a necessary requirement for business longevity.  IT professionals understand this, as do many business owners.  However, IT professionals are well positioned with examples of activities that can be improved with technology, and cloud telephony is a great example.

It is a clear trend in business to move to a Hosted VoIP solution.  As existing telephone systems begin to fail and when replacement parts are becoming difficult or cost prohibitive to secure, businesses have moved to hosted VoIP.  Because the core system is a cloud-based application, businesses only need to purchase the VoIP handsets.  In many cases, these handsets cost less than the replacement handsets for their analog systems. This drives down the costs of acquisition.  Additionally, lower service costs and other indirect and direct benefits can provide a monthly savings to the business and generate a return on investment.  As more and more telephone system support requests are made to the IT manager or professional, they are seeing that it is time to move the organization to cloud telephony solutions.

Moreover, the VoIP application runs on the network they manage.  Old phone systems were under the domain of the system manufacturer, so troubleshooting and administration were depended upon others to work.  With Hosted VoIP, there is an element that remains under the IT manager's domain given that the phones run over the Ethernet network in the office.  The IT manager will have some firewall adjustments to make and maintain and be responsible to troubleshoot any issues with the Local or Wide Area Networks.  Because they are required to remain engaged with the solution, they are more apt to make recommendations to move to Hosted VoIP.

IT providers also tend to recommend solutions and providers they trust.  With their other clients they experienced a positive and seamless installation, a solution that could be molded to and advance the businesses communication practices, and a customer service approach that has exceeded expectations.  Once they find such a provider, a mutually beneficial relationship is forged between the IT professional and the Hosted VoIP provider.  In many cases, the Hosted VoIP provider also finds opportunities where their customers or potential customers could use some outsourced IT support, so cross referral opportunities are plentiful.

Finally, many IT support firms use Hosted VoIP services for their own business.  Many of the applications fit well for organizations like this who deploy resources in the field.  The utilization soft phones allow for these resources to make or take calls while being away from the office.  To the external caller, they have no idea where the call is made or received.  Also, receiving voicemail to email and other features have resonated well for a mobile work force such as deployed by an  IT provider.

If your business has not yet looked into the advantages of moving to a Hosted VoIP system, research a variety of options and ask your IT manager or professional for a recommendation.  You'll be glad you did!


About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

This article is dedicated to all of the IT professionals who recommend sipVine to their client base.  We love you!  You keep our sales team hopping and we very much appreciate your continued referrals.

Tags: Hosted VoIP, Cloud Telephony, Phone Service for Computer and Network Services Co

Break Up with Your Old Phone Company

Posted by Mark Greim on Dec 1, 2015 1:30:00 PM

Go ahead, break up with your old phone company!  What have they done to advance your business, lately or ever? How are your treated when you call?  Have your rates ever gone down?  Many businesses have found a new partner and made the move to Hosted VoIP Phone Service.

There are several reasons why Hosted VoIP makes good sense for businesses.  Businesses actually advance their communication practices, save money, and future proof their investment by switching to Hosted VoIP. However, fear of actually making the change can be a barrier, so let's first tackle the steps.

  1. Break_Up_with_Phone_Company.jpgExamine your contract with your carrier. It is sad, but true. Old telephone companies believe in their service so much that they feel the need to lock their customers into a term contract.  Under the guise of "getting the best rates", customers routinely sign three year agreements with their providers, although there are provisions for rate increases along the way.  Additionally, the automatic renewal clause is typically buried in fine print or vaguely directed to some external website reference.  Most customers think they are out of contract, but have been auto-renewed for one or more years.  Therefore, understanding your term and notification requirements is important as you set the timelines for your conversion.
  2. Review your internal network for VoIP readiness. Hosted VoIP runs over your office ethernet network.  Thus, wherever you desire to have a VoIP phone placed, you will need ethernet availability.  Most IP phones have dual ports, so they can share an ethernet connection with a computer, eliminating the need for wiring.  Standard ports on VoIP phones allow for 100mb data throughput.  If your internal network is built for gigabit speeds, there are VoIP phone models available for those speeds.  Finally, VoIP phones require AC power.  Make sure there are available outlets or convert your network switches to deliver power over ethernet.
  3. Evaluate your bandwidth utilization. VoIP phone calls require very little bandwidth, only 80kb upload or download depending upon where you are talking or listening.  Understanding your maximum concurrent calls and running the math would let you know the requirements for VoIP on your network.  Most routers provide network utilization statistics, so double checking your utilization of upload and download capacity is important.  With bandwidth speeds increasing in most markets with competitive alternatives available, most businesses have already sized their capacity to easily incorporate a VoIP service into their routines.
  4. Research and select a Hosted VoIP provider. There are many providers out there, so narrowing down and selecting the right provider for your business can seem overwhelming.  Start with the reasons why you are breaking up with your current phone company.  If you are frustrated with rising rates and auto-renewed contracts, look for a Hosted VoIP provider who does not force you to sign term contracts.  If you're interested in how the new technology can help your business thrive, look for a provider who will customize the programming of the phones to accomplish your goals.  Many hosted providers point you to a portal for self-servicing and provisioning of your phones, so investigate the process.  If you're tired of the poor customer service delivered by the old phone company, check the references of the Hosted VoIP provider and make sure they have the right strategy and have executed the delivery of awesome customer service.
  5. Submit Paperwork for Porting of your Phone Numbers. Your new provider will help you through these steps.  Timing is the key.  You'll want to provide a couple of weeks for the porting of the numbers and coincide with the termination considerations of your current contract.  Your provider should be able to deliver the phones to you, fully programmed, within that two week period.  Allow for some time to have a consultation session with your new provider so that they can meet all of your design requirements.

So, just a little time investment can generate some great returns.  You should experience a positive return on investment with this change, both directly from the monthly savings and indirectly from improved communication practices.  Plan for your breakup today and follow the steps outlined above!


About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: Changing Phone Service Providers, VoIP business phone services

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