Every day more small businesses convert their phone service to a Hosted VoIP provider, moving away from traditional analog phone service and phone systems. Common to the conversations with these small businesses are questions regarding the impact a switch to Hosted VoIP phone service will have on their company.
VoIP for Small Business - 5 Common Questions
Will Hosted VoIP save our business money? The short answer: Absolutely! Small businesses can expect to save money on their monthly telecom expense, long-term on their phone system expense, and through efficiencies driven to their operation. In response to the rapid decline of analog phone lines due to losses to Hosted VoIP, telecommunication companies have increased their rates. Even without the rate increases, most businesses converting to Hosted VoIP have experienced a monthly savings.
Additionally, by shifting to a cloud-based phone system, small businesses only have to purchase the VoIP phones, not the phone system. Thus, future costs will only be in the form of replacement handsets or upgrades as technology changes. The responsibility for maintaining the system and keeping pace with technology improvements shifts to the Hosted VoIP provider.
Finally, there are a myriad of ways Hosted VoIP technology can improve business operations. The key is that it is a software program, with flexibility to adapt to how each company does business and serves its customers. Setting up remote personnel, establishing a similar phone platform across branch locations, creating centralized call functions, enabling direct customer contact to applicable employees anytime and anywhere, and creating customer-centric call flows are just some of the concepts small businesses have utilized with a Hosted VoIP platform to drive operational efficiencies.
My phone system is working, why should I change? This question is being asked less and less by prospective businesses, as the Hosted VoIP technology is now commonly utilized by businesses across all market segments. Still, many business owners have been resistant to making a technology change or simply delaying until such an investment was absolutely necessary. However, the time is quickly approaching for a decision to be made, as several manufacturers of analog phone systems have ceased production and support of the old technology. As a result, replacement parts are becoming difficult to locate or very expensive. So, rather than facing an impact to the business because of the phone system failure or constraints, business owners are moving to Hosted VoIP and considering it on a return on investment basis.
Can I keep my existing phone numbers? Yes, moving (porting) your current phone numbers to a Hosted VoIP provider is not only possible, it is a regulated activity. In addition to your current customer facing numbers, Hosted VoIP providers can deploy direct dial numbers for your employees, toll free numbers, and phone numbers in different cities across the world that can route to your main location.
Will we be down during the transition? This is a great question to ask of your Hosted VoIP provider, as processes differ across these providers. The goal of everyone's process would be to eliminate downtime. The phones and call programming can be configured and installed prior to the porting of the numbers. Differences exist between providers and carriers as to whether the port can be initiated on-demand on the scheduled date or if it automatically happens on a scheduled date. Obviously, if it is on-demand, there's no downtime. Calls just begin coming in on the new phones. If it is automatic, as long as the IP phones are installed before the port, the transition is seamless.
Is Hosted VoIP phone service reliable? There are two areas to explore for answers relating to this question. The first is the reliability of the internet connection to the business. Hosted VoIP runs over the company's internet connection. Over the past decade, there have been tremendous improvements in the available speeds, up-time, and reliability of business internet connections. A VoIP call requires very little bandwidth, so, with higher available speeds now available, contention for bandwidth between applications is becoming less of an issue.
The second involves the reliability of the hosted VoIP provider as well. Given this is a cloud based-system, there are some safeguards built in to protect customers from key failure points, such as internet outages to their data centers, equipment failures, and such. Ask for references, as the best people to ask about downtime experience are the businesses who rely on the service. The good news is that there are opportunities on all fronts to help prevent a major outage.
If you're a business that has not yet made the switch to Hosted VoIP phone service, invest a little time into researching your options. Finding a provider that meets your needs and matches your values is not easy, as there are many out there. But, the benefits cited above can greatly improve your operations and bottom line.
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.