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Why Successful Businesses Choose Hosted VoIP

Posted by Mark Greim on Apr 10, 2015 9:46:06 AM

It's a matter of time before every business will be evaluating their phone system.  With many businesses delaying infrastructure investments until the economy turned around, there's a rush of new phone system investments being made each and every day.  Successful businesses have recognized that much has changed in the technology in the last decade and are making the switch to a hosted VoIP solution.Successful_Business_People_Choose_VoIP

Similar to other information technology decisions, phone service can also be moved to the cloud.  Business leaders have recognized that their infrastructure investment dollars can be spread widely over several initiatives because capital and servicing costs are minimized through a hosted service model.  Specific to the telephony decision, moving the system and service to a hosted platform significantly reduces the up-front capital investment. 

Cost Savings:  With hosted VoIP, businesses do not need to invest in an on premise PBX or phone server.  Such equipment is what is provided and maintained by the hosted VoIP provider.  They only need to invest in the VoIP phones that connect to the hosted provider.  Not only is the capital outlay greatly reduced, but the access to advanced features is significantly increased.  Additional savings can be secured by not employing or contracting resources dedicated to the upkeep and maintenance of a local PBX.  Some hosted providers, like sipVine, provide all of the on-going administrative services as well, included at no additional charge.

The New Bundle:  Traditional phone companies secured term agreements from businesses and convinced them that bundling voice and data services created value.  This value, sometimes more perceived than real, only produced a pricing value at the expense of a committing to term agreement.  Hosted VoIP providers can ride any high speed internet connection, but a real value can be achieved by bundling the phone service with the phone system.  Value is delivered because the phone service is now a program resident on the hosted platform, and this program can be designed to match the specific needs of the business.  Additionally, hosted VoIP providers that perform the configuration and administration get to know their customers very well during the process.   Good providers take advantage of this opportunity and provide significant service benefits to their customers.

VoIP Technology:  As mentioned above, much has changed in the world of telecommunications over the past decade.  Analog line based systems are antiquated.  They worked well in the past but are very expensive to deploy when attempting to match the features and benefits of the affordable hosted VoIP services.   Simply put, a hosted VoIP system can be configured to match the needs of the business rather than the business conforming to the constraints of the phone system.  Businesses also do not have to worry about obsolescence, as it is the responsibility of the hosted provider to develop and deploy new features as technology advances. 

Successful businesses measure themselves on the results of their decisions.  A decision to deploy a hosted VoIP system is a can't-fail decision, as it delivers an affordable investment, a valuable bundling of system and phone service and an improvement in technology. 

 

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. 

Hosted VoIP Delivers Entrepreneur to Enterprise Scalability

Posted by Mark Greim on Mar 17, 2015 3:00:15 PM

Simply put, Hosted VoIP is the most flexible of phone system and service options businesses have today.  Businesses can literally never worry about their phone system constraints again.  Consider business applications or purchases that can be deployed for companies at the Entrepreneurial stage through the established Enterprise stage.  The list is few.

How is it possible that a phone system can work for a small entrepreneur and take that same VoIP-FromEntrepreneurtoEnterpriseentrepreneur's business throughout its life cycle?  First, the very nature of a hosted phone system is that it provides the infrastructure to the business over the internet.  The only equipment deployed by the business are the phones themselves.  Therefore, the business never needs to worry about "sizing" the system to meet current and future demands.  Second, because the features of the hosted phone service are vast enough to meet enterprise level requirements, the entrepreneur and small business gets to take advantage of these higher level features throughout their business life cycle.  They do not need to scrimp on system requirements or overbuild for their level of needs.

Such a platform leads to many advantages to these entrepreneurs and all growing businesses:

  • Low Capital Outlay - Because you do not need to purchase a phone system or switch, the only capital outlay for a hosted phone service is the exact number of IP phones you need today.  Keep in mind that whether you have just a single phone or a handful to start, you still have the full feature set of a robust, enterprise-level phone system.
  • Grow as You Grow - As the business grows, you only need to add phones/users as you have the employees on board.  Again, the system will expand as large as you need it to be.  Hosted providers typically charge for the monthly phone service by phone or user, so your monthly costs will only increase as your business increases.  Many providers offer a declining rate per user depending upon how many phones are deployed.  Thus, your phone system and service always is in an exact match to your company's size.
  • Freedom of Location - As businesses grow, they find themselves moving to larger locations or adding additional locations.  All businesses need to have in place is a high speed internet connection, and the phones can move from one location to another.  You don't have to be concerned with moving a switch or even buying a new system.  Nor is downtime a concern.  All of this can be well coordinated with your hosted provider.  Adding locations, whether in the same city or outside of the area, is not an issue at all with Hosted VoIP service.  All phones have direct dial numbers consistent with their location and you can extension dial between phones.  Phones in all locations can be tied into call flows or ring groups from a primary main line for the business.  There's simply a tremendous amount of flexibility Hosted VoIP provides a growing business.
  • No Obsolescence - Business do not need to worry about their phone switch becoming obsolete.  It is incumbent upon the provider to maintain the system with a progressing set of features to meet future requirements and capabilities.  The phones themselves can be upgraded down the road, but the original models can still be in service for as long as they operate or remain compliant with the host system.  Thus, telecom obsolescence is off the table from an entrepreneur's perspective.

Every entrepreneur or leader of a growing business loves flexibility, especially when it comes to infrastructure decisions.  Choosing a Hosted VoIP system and service will be one decision that will provide such flexibility and deliver advantages throughout the lifecycle of the 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: Benefits of VoIP, start up business phone service

Changing VoIP Providers: Getting it Right

Posted by Mark Greim on Feb 17, 2015 10:00:00 AM

Not too long ago, this article would have focused on changing your business phone service from a traditional phone service provider to a VoIP provider.  Hosted VoIP services are becoming widely accepted as the technology of choice for the small to mid-size business market, manifested by the fact that many companies are now switching from one VoIP Provider to another.  It is also a signal that selecting a provider at the outset needs careful research and deliberation.Get_VoIP_Decision_Right

Every day, we are installing customers who are moving from big name VoIP providers to sipVine.  Common reasons for the shift are frustration with level of service, poor call quality, and complicated web portal processes for self-servicing.  Thus, as a part of "getting it right", you should start with those items when researching VoIP providers, whether it be for moving your service from a traditional phone service provider to a VoIP service or for switching VoIP providers.

  • Customer Service - Seek out references or testimonials relating to how the VoIP company provides customer service.  Do they understand the customer and can resolve the issues quickly?  There's a unique opportunity with hosted VoIP service in that the provider is delivering both the phone system and service.  Thus, they have an opportunity to leverage this situation to get to know the customer's business and configure the system to match their needs.  Find out from references if the VoIP provider has taken advantage of this opportunity as shown through their on-going service.  If not, move on to the next provider.
  • Poor Call Quality - VoIP providers still have some work to do in the area of call quality.  This is the primary reason sipVine converts existing VoIP customers from other providers.  If the answer to "how does your company provide for VoIP quality of service?" is along the lines of adding bandwidth or running over a separate connection, then they do not provide any QoS.  Having a QoS solution is key to your decision on moving to a business VoIP service, or you will be a candidate for a switch to a VoIP provider like sipVine.  You will be surprised that the major players in this industry do not have a solution for this.
  • Self Servicing - Many VoIP providers offer a web portal.  Where this provides some glitz to the sales process, the reality is that the objective is to push customer support opportunities to the customers themselves.  Most customers of VoIP providers we convert have shared stories of complicated portals and more frustration with the situation than benefits derived from self-servicing.

As an aside, we also see many lost opportunities for customization of the VoIP service when we are converting a customer from an existing provider.  Most phones are built with their most basic configuration option.  Be sure to select a provider that will meet with you in advance of the install and work through items like call flow, custom attendants, phone line appearances and/or busy lamp fields, and several other customization options.  If not, then a large opportunity is missed to build your system to match your needs.

Outside of researching the areas above, when preparing to move from one VoIP provider to another, there are a few things to be prepared for:

  • Make sure you are out of contract.  Most VoIP providers do not have term contracts, but it is always good to double check.  If you have had documented problems with voice quality, you may have some grounds to break the contract.
  • A VoIP phone may be locked or password protected.  Be sure to get them unlocked or find out the password prior to switching providers, assuming that provider can reuse your specific brand of phone.
  • Be sure to capture all of the numbers you wish to port to a new provider.  If you have not published your direct dial numbers (DID) widely, it may be prudent to only port over your main line and fax line and have your new provider deliver a new block of DIDs for you.   Whether you port all of your numbers or not, you should cancel your service and billing from the other provider once you have confirmation that the ports have been completed.

We hope this information is helpful.  Don't be discouraged if your initial foray into VoIP didn't go well.   There are some fantastic providers of VoIP services and some wonderful benefits to the businesses who use them. 

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

Auto Renewals: A Bad Telecom Legacy

Posted by Mark Greim on Feb 3, 2015 11:12:00 AM

As a business, you're excited about the opportunity to evaluate new technologies and drive benefits to your organization.  After all, a Hosted VoIP system is becoming commonly accepted as not just the technology of the future, but of the present.  Your peers in your industry are moving to these services and they come highly recommended.  You've calculated the benefits to your business, determined your return on investment, and selected your new hosted VoIP provider.  Now, you turn to your existing telephone service and, after struggling to even find the right person to talk to, find out that, BAM, your service was auto renewed for another year!Term_Contacts_bad_for_Phone_Service

This is not a story presented merely for effect.  It is a reality that occurs every day.  As telecom companies desperately hang on to their old, analog technologies, they rely upon the shackles of term contracts and the dreaded, insulting, and gutless auto renewal to keep their customers hostage.  We'll set aside the question of the auto renewal for a moment and discuss the other bad legacy at play here, the term contract.

How are businesses convinced that a term contract for their telecom services is a good thing to begin with?  It's all about feeling like they are getting the best deal.  First, they are presented with the merits of a bundle of services on a single bill, albeit a confusing bill.  Then, they see that the overall price is reduced for the bundle for each year tacked on to the term.  They sign the order, and all is good.  But, is it?  Many times, the order signed references terms and conditions that are not attached, but available on line.  These terms are rarely reviewed and certainly not negotiable.  Typically, they are not discovered until the business is ready to make a change or when their agreed upon pricing increases during the term.

Most businesses in this situation are usually of the belief that they are out of term and free to make a change or negotiate a renewal.  After searching hard and actually finding someone who can effectively answer questions regarding their service, they discover that their contact auto renewed for another year a month ago without any notice or warning.   Following the example above, they are shocked that such terms existed in the first place.  Telecom companies claim that they are doing the business a service in that they are staying with their current bundle price and didn't revert to a higher, non-term price.  However, all they accomplished was to further drive dissatisfaction with the situation and shackle the customer to one or more years.

It may be deemed to be a little indulgent that this message is being crafted by a company who doesn't believe in term contracts and has a clear philosophy of earning our customers' business every day.  Perhaps, but we literally run into this exact scenario each day when working with businesses who are ready to invest in VoIP technology.  It is a sad situation and a bad legacy of the industry, one that needs to change.

What should your business do?  First, evaluate your current telecom contracts and seek out the specifics of your term.  Then, you will at least know your options and the time frame in which you have to either seek out alternatives or attempt to negotiate a renewal with more favorable terms.  With the rate of exodus from traditional telecom providers, they may be more flexible in the future when it comes to term and price negotiation.  If you don't want to bet on that becoming reality, examine your alternatives and what new technology from new providers can provide your business.  Many offer no contacts, clear, competitive pricing, and cutting-edge, but affordable technology.  Your business deserves to be free from the shackles of term contracts and auto renewals!

 

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, Moving Phone Service

Review of the Polycom VVX Models of VoIP Phones

Posted by Mark Greim on Dec 19, 2014 8:20:00 AM

During our certification for sale process, sipVine had the opportunity to conduct extensive user testing of several of the Polycom VVX models of VoIP phones.  The VVX300 and VVX400 models are the base and mid-range phones in the line-up, and will prove to be easy to use and solid workhorses for the heavy phone users in small to medium-sized businesses.  The VVX500 and VVX600 models are higher-end phones in the line-up and represent the cutting edge in VoIP phone technology.  These phones are sharp looking, high tech, and are reflective of Polycom's leadership in the marketplace.  This series of Polycom phones will serve businesses well and take advantage of everything business VoIP has to offer.

Standard Features:vvx300

They come with all of the standard, hardware-driven features you would expect from a Polycom VoIP phone, such as: call forwarding, call transferring, three-way conferencing, do not disturb, directories, and voicemail.  All phones come with Polycom's best-in-class speakerphone and HD voice clarity. 

Additionally, the stand for the Polycom VVX series will allow for 3 different angles.  You can select a new angle with ease, a vast improvement over the stand of the previous Polycom models.  Compared to a Cisco SPA series model where you have only one angle, these Polycom VVX's are superior in this regard.

Upgrades:

Screens/Lines

  • VVX300 - Backlit, grayscale screen with 6 lines
  • VVX400 - Backlit, color screen with 12 lines
  • VVX500 - Backlit, color touch screen with 12 lines
  • VVX600 - Backlit, color touch screen with 16 lines

VVX400Compared to the previous Polycom IP phone series, one upgrade is in the number of lines/favorites that appear on the screen.  The lower end models in the IP series had two to three lines, versus the six to 12 lines with the VVX300 and 400 models.  The VVX500 and 600 provide for 12 to 16 lines, respectively.  If you provision two lines for inbound/outbound calling, you'll have four to 14 "favorites" that are effectively speed dials.  If the favorite is in your organization and on the VoIP service, you can enable a busy lamp field (BLF), so you will know if that person is on the phone or not.

The VVX400, 500, and 600 all have color screens, which adds to their elegance.  The two higher-end models have touch screens, which resonate well with tablet and smart-phone users.  Additionally, the higher-end models allow you to personalize the screen saver and background via a USB port or through the web configuration utility.  

Network

The VVX300 and 400 models have dual 100mb ports, so your phone can share an ethernet connection with your computer.  You can upgrade the lower models to a VVX310 and 410 to have dual gigabit ports so your phone will not be a bottleneck when passing large files over your network.  The VVX500 and 600 come with standard, dual gigabit ports.  Finally, the VVX600 model will allow for a Blue Tooth headset pairing.

Cool Stuff:

Of course, if you're not already familiar with the functionality of VoIP phones, then the features above will all seem pretty cool!  However, these new Polycom phones have functionality that will really delight even the experienced VoIP users!  For example, with the USB port on the VVX500 and 600, you can attach a zip drive and record calls.  The display will show you how many hours of recording you have available on the drive.  All models allow you to integrate the phone with your computer's mouse and keyboard, allowing for a mouse over and click to dial from your favorites or directory.  Additionally, these models will integrate with your Outlook Exchange calendars, providing you a view of your calendar from your phone, and dialing from the calendar for conference calls. 

Polycom also has a "My Info Portal", which allows access to stocks, news, sports, weather and other streamlined content to the phone's screen.  Finally, both the VVX500 and VVX600 have optional cameras that will allow for Desktop Video Conferencing from phone to phone or interact with video conference bridges right from the phone.

sipVine Review:

During our certification of the VVX models on the sipVine service, we reviewed all modelsVVX500 and functions of the phones.  The VVX500 and VVX600 truly are the "Cadillacs" of the series, both in terms of functionality and price.  With the exception of standard gigabit ports, the touch screens, USB ports, and the video conference options, VVX400 has all of the same features as the VVX500 and VVX600.  However, the VVX500 and VVX600 will retail 48% and 82% higher than the VVX400, respectively.  The VVX300 has a grayscale screen and has even a greater price advantage.

Focusing first on the differences between the high-end models and the standard models, the color touch screens in the higher-end models are very nice.  It takes a little getting used to when compared with physical line buttons or softkeys on VoIP phones, but you'll catch on quickly.  Smudges are not noticeable, and clean up with a soft cloth will keep the phone clean and free from scratches.  Due to the cost of the phones, we didn't dare attempt to clean with a paper towel, so we cannot comment on the screen's ultimate durability!  The phone screens can pick up a glare, so the angle options are not just nice, but a necessity.

The other benefit over the lower models is the USB port, allowing for recording of calls right from the phone as well as personalized screen savers and background pictures.  Where recording of calls may have a specific benefit to various organizations and users, the screen saver "benefit" is not a driver toward purchasing these upper-end models versus the standard models.

VVX600That takes us to the video conferencing.  First, the optional camera will add $135 to the purchase price.  The screen sizes are adequate.  Being able to call into a video conference bridge is a great advantage for those who interact that way routinely, as phone to phone video interaction is only beneficial to those who really see the need.  It is only usable for personal video conference interaction, as a group huddling around the phone for the conference is not a viable option.  There are some even higher-end VVX phone options with larger screens (VVX1500 and VVX1500D), but we did not review those phones.

The VVX300 and VVX400 phones are easy to use and intuitive for the user who may be new to VoIP.  Compared to the Cisco SPA models of phones, they have superior speakerphones and a larger number of Lines/BLFs on the phone itself, however, the Cisco models win the ease of use battle.  The VVX300 has 6 lines, versus the 4 line Cisco SPA504.  The VVX400 has 12 lines and a color screen, versus the 8 line, grayscale SPA508.

Both the VVX300 and 400 models have hard buttons next to the line appearance/BLF that change color when in use.  These present a similar user experience to other VoIP phones.  We found it easier to transfer / dial utilizing the hard buttons versus the touch screens of the higher end models, likely due to our previous familiarity with physical buttons.  The menu scroll/select button is slightly cumbersome, and the touch screens of the higher-end models are superior in the scrolling/selecting functionality.

The backlit, grayscale screen of the VVX300 is clear and readable, but doesn't blow you away with clarity.  The color screen of the VVX400 is much better than the grayscale.

I will make one comment on a feature of all models tested.  The integration of the computer keyboard and mouse with the phone is cool, but a little distracting.  There are a few times during the day where I've scrolled over and clicked on a favorite to dial.  The keyboard was nice when entering contacts into my directory, but, honestly, that was a one-time effort.  Searching directory listings is aided by this functionality to some extent.  All things considered, I found myself scrolling my mouse over to the phone on accident quite routinely during the day.  You basically program the setting to indicate what side of the computer the phone resides, and it opens up that border of the screen to scroll to the phone.  I didn't realize how often I scroll to the max end of the screen to exit from programs or scroll up and down until I no longer had a side border to stop my mouse.  So, I will likely turn that option off.

Suffice it to say, the higher-end models will likely be a luxury alternative for sipVine business VoIP customers in the small to medium-sized market space.  Most will select the VVX300 and VVX400 phones for their general office deployment.  Some executives may select the higher-end models, as they really are nice.  I'm using the VVX500 now, and don't want to give it up!

Overall, these models of phones by Polycom will become one of sipVine's lead products.  Our previously lead product was the Cisco SPA500 series, which possesses many great features and flexibility.  However, these Polycom models surpass the Cisco models in many ways, and we're looking forward to sharing these advantages with our current and future customers!

 

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 Phone

Choose Hosted VoIP and Never Buy a Phone System Again!

Posted by Mark Greim on Dec 17, 2014 9:31:00 AM

Is your business still using old analog phone technology?  Many businesses are getting every last bit of value out of their phone switch in their equipment room.  They paid thousands for it many years ago, and even though it lacks the features to elevate their business, they still remember the pain of writing that large check years ago, and will keep it alive as long as possible for that sole reason.

We run into this situation all of the time.  These businesses continue to sink money into theOld Phone Technology old technology even while facing difficulty securing parts or getting service.  When they realize that they can receive the most current phone features and there's no need to ever purchase another phone switch on the wall, hosted VoIP becomes a real solution. 

For businesses in this situation, the following items are worth consideration when deciding on whether or not to choose Hosted VoIP technology. Aside from spending on maintenance and the lost opportunity of an old analog phone system, there’s also this to consider:

  • Low Up-front Investment - With Hosted VoIP, all you need to purchase are the VoIP handsets for your business.  There are a variety of options of VoIP phones, most at a very reasonable cost.  Typically, businesses capture a return on investment in a very short time frame as they will see lower administrative and maintenance costs and, many times, lower phone service costs as well through the hosted provider. This makes the solution a fit for any cost-conscious business, including the non-profit community.
  • No Obsolescence - Because you are now connecting to your phone system over the internet, your hosted provider bears the financial and managerial responsibility of keeping the phone system current and state-of-the-art.  Thus, you will always have access to new features and technologies through your provider without reinvesting in a new phone switch.  Wouldn't you have loved to know this ten years ago?  From the handset perspective, depending upon the manufacturer and general wear and tear, they should last a long time.  Down the road, you may choose to upgrade a few handsets to newer models, but that is a choice you would make.  It wouldn't be forced upon you. 
  • Easy Scaling and Sizing - One of the challenges when purchasing a phone system is sizing it to meet your future needs.  You run the risk of overspending and may still miss the mark, or under spending and need a full replacement in the future.  Hosted VoIP removes all of those risks, as you only need to purchase the number of handsets you need today.  As you grow, you simply add a handset.  If you downsize, your provider can take those phones out of service.  Thus, your phone system will always be sized to your business.  VoIP is a natural fit for any small business for this very reason. Additionally, as time goes on, your hosted provider should be introducing new handsets and features to the platform, keeping your system on the cutting edge of technology.
  • A Phone System that Goes Where You Go - As your business grows, you may see the need to move to a larger location.  Because your system is with your hosted provider, all you need to do is move your handsets to the new location and you're good to go.  Of course the new location would have the internet and internal network set up, but that's it!  It also will allow for tremendous flexibility in these situations, as you can defer the expense of moving right away by deploying a virtual workforce or a smaller, secondary location.  Associates could have phones at the other location or at their homes, and they will be connected to the "system" just as if they were at the headquarters! 
  • Features Than Can Aid Your Business - If you haven't upgraded your phone system in a while, there are numerous advancements that can improve your internal and external communications.  Most Hosted VoIP systems offer the latest features, and most providers include them as a part of the standard package.  From customized call flows to find-me/follow-me features for sales and service associates, a good provider can cover the various features and discuss which ones can elevate your business communications!

There's never been a better time to see just how affordable and advantageous choosing hosted VoIP service can be for your business.  Contact sipVine today to begin a consultation.

 

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 business phone system, Phone System Replacement

Why VoIP Call Quality Is Still A Problem For Business

Posted by Mark Greim on Oct 15, 2014 9:20:00 AM

When considering a hosted VoIP phone service for your business, are you concerned about the voice quality of your phone conversations with your customers?  Do you believe that with increasing availability of expanded bandwidth that call quality concerns are diminished? 

Most people that I talk to agree that voice quality is important not only as a reflection of their business, but to ensure that operations run smoothly. And, while increasing internet bandwidth may be an option, it certainly does not diminish call quality concerns with VoIP. 

Hosted VoIP continues to be the product of choice for businesses looking to affordably increase their communication functionality and replace their old technology.  However, it is extremely important to select a provider who has a focus on call quality and the network infrastructure and appliances to deliver a crisp and clean voice conversation using VoIP.VoIP Call Quality Matters

sipVine, a Kansas City-based Hosted VoIP company, is an example of a provider who has such a focus on call quality for their customers.  I was asked recently if call quality was still a point of consideration before businesses switch to VoIP, and I needed to pause before answering.  Certainly, when sipVine began in 2005, not only was there a general uncertainty over the new technology, but also a vast opinion that the call quality could not be as good as an analog line.  Such opinions were formed from poor experiences with national consumer VoIP providers, and from business providers running VoIP over lower bandwidth connections at the customer locations.   However, such objections do seem to be in the past, as companies are no longer fearful of VoIP and it is the preferred technology as businesses replace current systems.

That said, call quality is still very much something that needs to be managed, and managed correctly.  The same day after being asked the question on the relevance of call quality in the process of choosing VoIP, we closed two sales from companies using national VoIP providers and were experiencing horrific call quality.  We encounter this situation routinely.  Most national providers suggest that the business expands their bandwidth or purchase an additional internet circuit to pass the phone traffic.  This action is an unnecessary use of money and network resources, and still doesn’t guarantee improved call quality.

At sipVine, we take a two-pronged approach to call quality management:

Quality of Service (QoS) Software and Network Design - Our technology team believes strongly that the best way to manage VoIP call quality is to have an on-network "traffic cop.” Resident on the router or through an edge appliance on the network, we manage call quality by prioritizing voice traffic over the data traffic.  To the naked eye, you do not see any network slow down by such prioritization routines.  However, to the ear, you certainly can notice when your data traffic interrupts the voice packet delivery.  This software allows businesses to utilize the same internet connection for voice and data and, many times, this action will negate the need to expand bandwidth just to run VoIP.  Most importantly, simply expanding bandwidth does not remove the potential for data packets to interrupt voice packets

sipVine also has a unique network design that creates an optimum mix of internet and public telephone network utilization.  Although it is more expensive to operate, we believe it is a small price to pay to produce a quality call environment.

Call Quality Troubleshooting - Even with QoS software and an optimal network topology, there are cases where the customer experiences degradation of voice quality, as manifested by one-way audio or choppy communication.  sipVine technicians routinely help identify the root causes, whether it be a customer network related issue or an internet circuit related issue.  Only on rare occasions do we see where normal data and voice utilization are saturating the bandwidth provided!  In every case where we've rescued a customer from a national VoIP provider, the initial recommendation was always to expand bandwidth. 

Examples of network challenges we've encountered were certain workstations being hit with a virus and saturating either the upload or download side of the available bandwidth.  This would lead to one-way audio.  Our technicians were able to, remotely, identify the workstation(s) driving the issue.  Other examples are when customers have established new network backup or storage routines during business hours.  After pointing out the impact it was having to overall network performance and voice quality, these customers usually changed the timing of their routines to after business hours. 

Finally, many times there's an issue with the internet circuit itself.  Perhaps there's a higher amount of latency than acceptable, or that the ping times that measure the round trip latency are not consistent.  For example, if they typically run at 15-25 milliseconds and the current experience shows 25ms, 25ms, 100ms, 90ms, 20ms, etc., there is going to be a problem in voice quality.  sipVine technicians have helped our customers effectively communicate with their internet provider by providing such reports on circuit performance so that it may be quickly addressed.

So, back to the question that was posed to me.  The answer is unequivocally YES, call quality does matter when considering VoIP!  If you’re considering outsourcing your business phone service, our advice is to work with a provider who makes quality a priority within their own network, and will actually help diagnose any problems with networks or circuits that may be driving a problem.

 

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 Voice Quality, VoIP Bandwidth Requirements

Why Non-Profit Organizations Are Choosing Hosted VoIP

Posted by Mark Greim on Sep 10, 2014 2:33:00 PM

Every day, more non-profit organizations are making the shift to hosted VoIP service from their traditional analog service and phone system.  There are a variety of reasons as to why this is happening, but the fundamental theme is that these organizations tend to look for robust features at an affordable price.Phone Service for Non Profit Organizations

Non-profits come in every shape and size.  Whether they are an educational or medical institution, a foundation supporting such institutions, an organization supporting a cause or an organization serving the community, non-profit organizations all operate just like any other business.  Because the funding of their operations comes from their donor or constituent base, these organizations are always mindful of keeping operational costs low so that their funding can be used for the more global purpose of the organization.

Therefore, because they are run like most businesses and operated by business professionals, they are drawn to a feature set that matches their needs and general familiarity with what other businesses have been using.  However, their budget tends to require that they receive donated or older equipment, many on the last years of a useful life, or certainly representing older technology.  Does it work?  Yes.  Are there better alternatives?  Absolutely!

Hosted VoIP services have great appeal to non-profit organizations because they are able to use enterprise level features and service without buying a massive system up front. By only purchasing the VoIP handsets, the cost difference can be substantial.  Additionally, the monthly cost per user will also drive some savings opportunity when compared to traditional phone service companies.

Some examples of features that have resonated with NPOs are:

  • Voicemail to email
  • Auto-attendant (they can conserve on reception costs)
  • Direct dial numbers
  • Conference calling

There are some providers out there who will offer non-profit organizations a special discount.  sipVine, as an example, discounts both the hardware and monthly fee for such organizations, as we recognize that by helping keep their administrative costs lower, more funds are available to support their cause and the community. 

If you are a non-profit organization looking into your options with VoIP, please feel free to reach out to us.  We'll be happy to talk you through it! 

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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

Comparing VoIP Phones vs. Cell Phones for Business Use

Posted by Mark Greim on Sep 4, 2014 8:32:00 AM

With residential households dumping their landline phone service in favor of their cell service in ever increasing numbers, business leaders are also evaluating their options for phone service.  However, there are several areas of consideration before making this decision, and simply dumping one for the other isn't always the best solution. It’s important to weigh all the factors before choosing either VoIP service or a slew of cell phones.  Things to take into account include:cell phones voip phones

Cost Considerations - Certainly, cost favorability would be a reason businesses would even consider dumping their landline for a cell phone.  However, even the smallest of businesses find value in what a phone system can do, especially a feature-rich VoIP system. It’s important to consider the shelf-life of cell phones versus that of business phone systems, and the frequency with which cell phone are damaged, stolen or lost.

Caller Experience - When a customer is calling your business, they need to be directed to the individual who can best handle their needs.  Deploying handsets with individual phone numbers to each employee would work for callers who call direct to those associates, but cell phones aren't designed to work together.  Transferring calls, establishing hunt groups, knowing if others are on the phone or not and dialing by extension are all functions that go away with cell phone only deployments.  Simply put, if call handling is not efficient for your staff, it certainly won’t be efficient for the caller.

Call Quality - Face it, you know when you're talking with someone on their cell phone.  The call simply isn't as clear as when you're talking on a landline or a quality VoIP connection.  It is subject to drops as well.  Further, if an associate needs to be working at a computer, a blue tooth or headset device for the cell phone would be necessary.  These tools for those type of phones can degrade the call quality even further.  This is probably not what most business would want as a reflection of their brand.

Using Cell Phones and VoIP Phones in Tandem

You don’t necessarily have to choose one or the other, as you can incorporate cell phones into the mix to enhance the caller experience.  Your staff can have a simultaneous ring of their desk phone and cell phone to improve the chance that they're available to take a call.  Or, the cell phones of certain associates can be provided an extension on the system to allow for easy transfer to that individual.  Finally, smart phones can download an application that will allow for their phone to have a direct dial / extension on the system.  When calling from the application, the phone delivers the company caller ID, not the cell phone caller ID.

Businesses deploying a hosted VoIP service can get all of the features of an enterprise level phone system, but at a very affordable cost.  The initial investment only includes the VoIP phones, as the system is hosted by the provider.  The monthly service cost can be less than traditional phone service as well.  And as noted above, there’s always an option to layer in cell phone service for added ease of use and off-hours availability. Unfortunately, there are too many flaws in cell phone only deployments for business to consider it a viable alternative to a business phone system and the service that comes with it.  Hosted VoIP service offers a savings opportunity and features your staff (and customers) will love. 

 

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 business phone services

Tips for Porting Over Your Old Phone Number to Hosted VoIP

Posted by Mark Greim on Aug 5, 2014 10:21:00 AM

phone number portabilityOne of the most important factors in the health and success of any business is making sure that your customers know how to get ahold of you. After all, it's a highly competitive world out there for any business, and your customers are busy people. They're not going to spend a lot of time trying to track your company down, they'll just take their business elsewhere. 

That's one of the reasons it can be stressful to contemplate changing your business phone service. Even in this digital age, customers still need to be able to call in, and you may've had the same phone number for years. Nobody wants to change their number and risk their customers not being able to reach them. If a customer calls and finds that your number is no longer in service, chances are they'll assume that you've gone out of business, and that's not good for anyone. 

Fortunately, transitioning your business to hosted VoIP phone service has never been quicker, easier, or smoother, and regulations allow you to keep your existing phone number, even when you switch service providers. So there's never been a better time to make the switch to VoIP phone service than right now! Hosted VoIP can provide you with all the services and amenities that you've come to expect, plus improved reliability, call quality, and customer service. But even though switching to hosted VoIP is straightforward and hassle-free, there are still a few things to keep in mind to help make sure that the transition is as smooth as possible, and ensure that your customers can stay in touch with you. 

When you decide to make the switch to a new provider, ask your current provider for a copy of your Customer Service Record (CSR). That will provide you with all of the necessary demographic information that your new provider will need to set up your account so that you avoid delays or rejections. 

Allow at least two weeks for the processing of the port. During this time, your service will still be active on your old phone system.  The Hosted VoIP phones will be configured and installed prior to the changeover.  When the port occurs, the service will be live on the new phones within minutes.

If you have a DSL circuit attached to the number that you're porting over, you'll need to get it re-provisioned during the transition or your DSL will go away when the number ports. It's a simple enough process, but one that can cause big problems if it's not taken care of, so ask your service provider about it when you contact them. 

Once the port is complete contact your old carrier and make sure that any numbers that you no longer need are cancelled, so you don't end up with bills down the road for services that you weren't using. 

At sipVine, we know the importance of good communications to business, and that's why, when you call us, you'll always get the very best in personalized service. If your business is ready to transition to hosted VoIP phone service, give us a call today, and we'll help you get the ball rolling!

About the author: Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of hosted VoIP phone systems 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 service

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