Perform a VoIP Comparison for Your Company Phones

Posted by Mark Greim on Mar 14, 2017 10:15:00 AM

When evaluating your company phone system and service, a VoIP comparison is necessary to evaluate the opportunity before you. This VoIP comparison will take you down two separate evaluations: one, to compare your existing system and service with a VoIP alternative and, two, evaluating the differences in VoIP providers.

VoIP Phone System & Service vs. Analog Based Solutions

Many businesses have already switched their company phones to a VoIP-based system. However, there remains a good number of businesses who, for a variety of reasons, have not made the switch as of yet.There are several comparisons to make for this evaluation:

  • Compare Features and Functionality - There are analog-based phone systems that provide a good set of features. However, the features of VoIP platforms are robust and expanding. Our first recommendation is to take a look at the features offered by a number of Hosted VoIP providers with an eye on how these features could impact your business in a positive way. Such features can improve your communication accessibility with your employees and customers, provide a platform for mobile or remote employees, and streamline your internal call handling processes.
  • Compare Costs of Equipment - If you are looking to replace your business' current analog phone system, the cost to move to a Hosted VoIP service is hands-down much more favorable. The biggest factor in this calculation is that you do not have to invest in a core system with Hosted VoIP. Only the VoIP Phones are required along with some other minor equipment. If you are comparing a Hosted VoIP service against maintaining your current analog company phones, it is likely that the one-time cost of the Hosted VoIP equipment is still favorable to a service contract or the on-going replacement/maintenance cost of the analog system.
  • Compare the Cost of the Phone Service - In the wake of mounting customer losses to VoIP providers, traditional telecom providers have been raising their business phone line costs to maintain revenues and margins. Even before such moves, the monthly costs of Hosted VoIP services have provided a monthly cost savings and helps provide a quick return on investment for the capital required. Solicit a few bids from Hosted VoIP providers and compare to your current phone service with the recognition that the traditional business phone service costs are rising over time.
  • Compare the Cost of Administration - With your current company phone system, changes or programmatic updates (if even possible) are the business' responsibility. You may have some elements that are included in a service contract with the system provider as well. With Hosted Phone Service, there are providers that will take care of all of your administrative needs as a part of the monthly service. Research Hosted VoIP providers that will relieve you from this cost and responsibility.

VoIP Phone System Providers

VoIP Comparison.jpgThe second lane in your VoIP comparison is to evaluate the various Hosted VoIP providers. The number of options out there are vast, and narrowing the list down can be challenging. We would suggest comparing a couple of the national named brand providers alongside alternatives that are regional or local to your area. One key to the local/regional list is to find a provider that has stood the test of time, operating a minimum of 5 to 10 years. Such a tenure would suggest that they are fiscally and technically stable and have a solid and loyal customer base. Another key with this set of providers is to make sure that they are not simply a reseller of a white-labeled national product. Resellers do not handle the technical customer service directly nor are they responsible for the on-going research and development of their product.

Once you receive bids for your company phones and service from these providers, be sure to contact references provided. They should be able to provide a reference from a company of a similar size and operate in the same or similar industry. Inquire about how the solution has improved their business along with how the overall experience has been for them. Are there any issues surrounding call quality, and how are they addressed? How was the initial installation and programming handled? What has been the approach to on-going administration and how easy are they to deal with for customer service

You should find that the national providers have a robust technology, but drop ship the phones and provide the customer a self-servicing portal for programming and administration. Local providers tend to be more engaged on the initial set-up and on-going administration, thus scoring quite well on the customer service approach.

If your business is being pinched by the costs of maintaining and old phone system and absorbing continued increases in telecom costs, this evaluation becomes very timely and critical for you. Not only can you save money overall, but you can transform your communication model and make a noticeable impact in your customer service.

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, Phone System Replacement

Tear Down Walls with Business VoIP

Posted by Mark Greim on Jan 30, 2017 10:30:00 AM

Leave the talk around building walls to the American political scene.  As a business owner, your business will benefit by figuratively tearing down walls and removing barriers to communication with the help of a Hosted VoIP phone service.  With Hosted VoIP, the walls of your business become translucent, as your phone system is no longer confined to your physical location.  Additionally, as the world becomes more and more "always-on" in terms of communication, your business can adjust communication practices to meet the evolving demands of your customers.

Hosted VoIP:  A Be Anywhere Phone System

By its very nature, Hosted VoIP delivers a single phone system to wherever your business is conducted.  Because the system is cloud-based, the business deploys physical or soft phones where it best meets the internal communication needs and the demands of their customers.  Making all of the phones work together as one system and implementing a call flow is a function of programming and does not require physical phone systems where you deploy resources.  This opens the door for extreme flexibility and creativity and will give your business an edge over the competition.  Examples of ways businesses have torn down the walls and deployed Hosted VoIP are listed below:

  • Expanding the Business Presence Beyond a Primary Location - As a business grows, pressure on square footage can become acute. Instead of adding resources to a tight environment or going through the expense of moving a business, a business owner can look at alternatives to placement of employees.  Locations can be added where resources are plentiful or economical or in areas where business volume dictates.  Virtual employees can also be deployed where it makes sense for the business, allowing for expansion without taking on the cost of new locations.  A Business VoIP phone service can tie all of these employees together on the same cloud-based system, facilitating efficient internal communication while external callers are served as if everyone was under the same roof.
  • All Locations Work as One - There are certainly direct economic advantages of all business locations being on the same phone system. Through Hosted VoIP, phone bills are typically lower as there are economies of scale built into most pricing practices of the hosted VoIP providers.  Indirectly, the business can benefit through the programming of the service to best meet the needs of the business and demands of the customers.  You can centralize main line calls, where all locations incoming calls are directed to a central group of people.  Calls can be directed to where the customer is best served.  You can decentralize functions as well.  For example, a customer service group can be made up of several employees located in several different locations.  Businesses can right size their functions based upon call requirements, not the number of physical locations.
  • Inclusion of the Mobile Work Force - Many businesses have employees spend a lot of time in the field, whether it be sales personnel, site managers, or service technicians. Most utilize the personal or business cell phones to conduct their business.  Thanks to soft phone applications, these employees can receive and make calls on their business number or extension and not have to give out the cell phone number.  When they make calls, they are delivering the caller ID of the business, not the cell phone.  Voicemail messages are crafted for their business, and not a personal cell phone.  This can be advantageous to the business in many ways.  Calls can be transferred to the employee without needing to think about whether they are in the office or on their cell phone by transferring to the extension.  External callers don't have try to reach this person via a cell phone, they just call the business or the direct dial of the contact.

Meeting the Customer Demands

Remove Walls to Communication with Business VoIP.jpgWith the flexible deployment options described above, call flows and communication practices can be revamped to meet the growing demands of an always-on customer base.  Calls can be answered all of the time, regardless of where the resources are deployed.  Auto attendants can route callers by need to the appropriate group of employees, again with no requirement of location.  Direct dial numbers can be judiciously utilized for customers who need direct contacts.  After hours on-call personnel can be equipped with soft phones.  Calls can be programmed to deliver to the entire group, but the only ones that will ring are to those designated to turn them on for the period.  No complicated programming or a physical requirement to be in the office is necessary.

These are just a few examples.  Every business is different and the caller demands can vary widely.  However, the flexibility offered by a Hosted VoIP service provides the business with the opportunity to be creative.  Let your imagine fly and think of ways your business can communicate better with your customers and prospects and set your business apart from your competition!


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 service, Business VoIP, virtual workforce, Phone Service for Multiple Locations

Don't Forget Hosted VoIP with Your Cloud Investments

Posted by Mark Greim on Nov 21, 2016 11:32:55 AM

As we approach year end, many businesses are making their IT infrastructure plans for the next year.  As you may expect, investing in cloud infrastructure is high on the list. One of the most common cloud initiatives for businesses focused on cloud investments is moving the phone system to a Hosted VoIP platform, or Cloud Telephony.

Information Week recently conducted a poll of readers, as they were interested in where the information technology spending will be focused on this next year. Although not intended to be scientific, it did present an informal take on the areas of focus.  "More than a third of respondents (36%) cited cloud as the technology that will receive the greatest investment at their companies in 2017."

There are many forms of cloud investment, and cloud telephony is often overlooked as a great source of securing significant benefits to the organization. This includes reduced costs in both the short and long term, increased flexibility, and an upgrade in applications supporting the business.

Reduced Costs

Dont Forget Cloud Telephony.jpgAs businesses invest in Hosted VoIP, they are able to replace their outdated phone system with a state-of-the-art system at a fraction of the costs.  The investment for Hosted VoIP is low, as you only need to purchase the VoIP phones.  The physical system itself is hosted by the provider and it is not a cost incurred by the business.  Thus, the business will no longer need to worry about a phone system replacement in the future.  Additionally, many IT managers are challenged to support and maintain old systems.  They are either bearing a high maintenance contract or paying a high price for parts that are difficult to secure.  All those concerns go away with Hosted VoIP. The only future costs will be handset replacement or addition.  Again, if current models are outdated, the business can replace with newer models and not necessarily have to replace all of the phones.

The monthly cost for phone service may also be reduced by moving to Hosted VoIP. Along with standard all-inclusive packages for local and long-distance calling, the cost of hosted user fees are typically lower than the all-in phone line costs for analog systems.  Additionally, many Hosted VoIP providers serve as your phone administrator, making changes to user names, call flows, auto attendant recordings, and such.  Some provide user interfaces for self-servicing, but look for the provider that will make these changes for you at no additional cost.  This will provide the business with internal labor savings dedicated to keeping the phone system up to date.

Increased Flexibility

Cloud Telephony provides much of the same degree of flexibility as Cloud Computing. Specific to your phone deployment, businesses no longer are confined to the walls of the office for the reach of their phone system. Associates can be deployed across multiple locations, whether an office environment, a work from home assignment, or a strictly mobile device.  Calls can be directed to or made by these associates with all appearances that they are working in the physical office.

For increased associate availability for calls, a soft phone application can be downloaded to a smart phone, tablet, or computer. If a person has a desk phone, this application can be designed to ring at the same time, assuming it is turned on. Thus, no matter where or what time a call needs to be made or received, the associate can utilize the soft phone to increase their availability.

Upgrade in Applications

Moving to a Hosted VoIP phone system from a traditional analog phone system, the business will likely benefit from an upgrade in the feature set.  They can customize the call flow and add ring groups. The auto attendant can also be customized to match the needs of the business and their customers. They can also have different attendant messages and options based upon the time of day and/or day of the week. The service also comes with standard features like direct inward dial numbers for each phone, voicemail delivery to email, call transferring and conferencing, and call recording. All features and call flow programming are designed to enhance the communication experience for customers and associates.

It's budget season, so make sure your IT plan for next year includes adding cloud telephony to your other cloud initiatives. It is an easy way to drive further budget savings while enhancing your communication capabilities!


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: Cloud Telephony, Hosted VoIP

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: Hosted VoIP, voip service provider selection, 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!

SIP_5ptchecklist_300x400.pngDoes 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: Phone System Replacement, Hosted VoIP

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: Telecom Term Agreements, Hosted VoIP

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

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