5 Questions to Ask Your New VoIP Provider

If you’ve recently made the switch from traditional phone lines to VoIP for business, you need to make sure that the provider you’ve chosen will be able to provide you with the features appropriate and necessary for your business. Here are a few questions you should ask your new VoIP provider to ensure you’ve made the right choice.

Have you worked with my type of business?

Your business has particular telephony needs that differ from those of consumers and businesses in other industries. If your VoIP provider doesn’t have experience with other businesses of the same size, industry, or structure, you could be missing out on important features and services that you need.

  • Even if your business is small, don’t be taken in by consumer-grade VoIP services that will lack important features like auto attendant and reliable voice networks.
  • Don’t overextend yourself by purchasing service from a VoIP provider that deals with medium or large businesses.  Your provider should know what kind of services your business will need and what kind of budget you have.

Do you have Enhanced 911 capabilities?

Emergencies happen, and your business needs to be able to reach emergency services quickly and easily. Since 2005, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has required “interconnected” VoIP providers to automatically offer 911 service as a standard, mandatory feature.

  • When a 911 call is made, the VoIP provider must route the call to the correct emergency service provider and provide them with a location and callback number.
  • If your VoIP provider is not covered by the FCC’s regulations, find out what their procedures are for dealing with emergency situations and 911.

Do you operate on a private network?

Providers can transmit your digital voice traffic over the public internet or through their own private network. When transmitted over the Internet, calls can be degraded by packet loss and jitters. Private networks are more likely to produce high-quality voice traffic that has less echo, distortion, and lag.

How is your maximum downtime calculated?

Your VoIP provider should offer you a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that guarantees a certain level of call quality, service availability, and network support. One aspect of the SLA that you should pay particular attention to is the way that maximum downtime is calculated.

  • An SLA that guarantees 99% uptime assumes that the network will be down 3.65 days per year. When calculated annually, you could potentially lose service for nearly 4 straight days – or ten 8-hour workdays. You’d have no recourse through your SLA because you’re technically still at 99% annual uptime.
  • If your downtime is applied at a weekly level, however, then at 99% you’re guaranteed less than two hours of downtime per week.

How do you define response time?

When the network goes down or the quality of your calls suddenly deteriorates, you need your VoIP provider to fix it as quickly as possible. Pay attention to how your SLA defines appropriate response times, and request that your provider use the following definitions:

  • Response time: The time between you making a complaint and your supplier acknowledging it.
  • Workaround time: How long takes your provider to temporarily fix the problem.
  • Correction time: How long it takes to find and implement a permanent solution to the problem.

Many small businesses are switching to VoIP business phone services because they are more reliable, less expensive, and provide many valuable features. New VoIP providers are springing up every day. Before you choose a provider, make sure that their services are appropriate for your business and that their SLA protects your business should the network go down.

Megan Webb-Morgan is a web content writer for www.ResourceNation.com. She writes about small business, focusing on topics such as business phone systems. Follow Resource Nation on Facebook and Twitter, too!

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Jackson Weber's picture
Jackson Weber, editor of VoipReview.org is a graduate from the University of Michigan, with a special focus in rhetoric and technical writing. Using these skill sets in conjunction with heavy research, Jackson stays ahead of the latest VoIP technology. He always finds the latest information on everything from SIP trunks to cloud-based PBX services, and breaks it down in plain English that almost anyone can understand.