Thanks to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and ever-improving cloud technologies, the phone-service options available to you as a small business are plentiful, with more features at a lower cost than were ever available before.
However, with all the options and vendors, separating the good from the bad and navigating the hype can be difficult. Not only are some VoIP systems a complete waste of money, but fees can be “hidden,” so what appears to be a big cost-saving decision can end up costing you more in the long run once you’ve calculated in ALL costs over a three- to five-year period.
Here are six revealing questions you must ask to cut through the hype, half-truths and “little” white lies that could bury your company.
- What will the call quality be like on my new system? Companies that sell phone systems and do not install and support computer networks – which is what your VoIP system is running on – are often NOT qualified to recommend or install a VoIP phone system for your office. One of the biggest reasons for VoIP failure (poor sound quality, slowed Internet speeds, etc.) is that the person selling you the system does not understand how to properly assess your company’s firewall, routers, network traffic, Internet connection speeds, as well as a host of other factors, to make sure their phone system will work as advertised in YOUR SPECIFIC ENVIRONMENT. That’s because they’re phone-system sales guys, not network engineers.
- How many data centers do you have and are they geographically dispersed? If the answer is only one, run away! What happens if their ONE data center goes down? Or, more commonly, what happens when the VoIP equipment inside the data center goes down? Your business is without a phone until they get their systems back online! Insist on at least two redundant data centers that are states away from each other to lower the risk of a natural disaster wiping out both data centers at once.
- What was your uptime last year? What’s your guarantee for uptime? If it’s anything less than 99.999%, find a different provider. And don’t just take them at their word; ask for documentation proving the reliability of their network in the previous year. If they can’t even do that, don’t buy their system!
NOTE: Uptime is the system’s ability to make and receive calls. If an individual office happens to be down due to an Internet outage, this does not affect the overall reliability of the system, because the system was ready and able.
- If my phone is unreachable, do you have automatic failover to another phone? If your provider’s system isn’t constantly monitoring the status of your network, VoIP system and VoIP phones, you should consider going with another provider. If your Internet goes down, or even a single phone stops working, the system should know that within a few minutes and automatically forward the calls to a predetermined destination (like a cell phone or another office location).
- Do you monitor my phones and system 24/7/365 for any potential issues? If you have to tell your provider the phones aren’t working, then find another provider. Any quality vendor should be monitoring and maintaining your system for you, using remote management tools. If you are missing calls, move on to a different system.
- Do you offer a money-back guarantee? If your provider is not willing to back up their claims with a WRITTEN, no-small-print, money-back guarantee, free of “weasel out” clauses, look for a vendor that does. Every phone-system sales guy is going to tell you how wonderful their system is and how you won’t experience any problems. If they’re THAT confident, have them guarantee it in writing so you’re not stuck paying for a new system that doesn’t work.