You’ve decided to switch to a VoIP service because you’re tired of the expenses from a traditional phone service, in addition to paying a technician to maintain your current setup. You’re also looking for state of the art customer-facing telecom features. To make your transition to VoIP as seamless as possible, planning and preparation are key. Here are the top four things that VoIP subscribers should consider when developing their transition plan:
#1. Your own bandwidth
A common misconception about VoIP service is that things like bad sound quality and interruptions are always the provider’s fault. But this isn’t the case! The truth is that VoIP competes for bandwidth much like other types of Internet technology, and your bandwidth is what ultimately determines your sound quality. Fortunately, speed testing your Internet connection is one of the easiest things you can do before switching to a VoIP provider. You’ll find a comprehensive VoIP speed test here and you can compare our results with plenty of other speed tests you can find online. Most of the better speed tests will provide comprehensive explanations regarding your results, allowing non-technical people to determine if your bandwidth is sufficient to support a reliable VoIP connection.
#2. Number transfer/porting
Your phone number is part of your identity, and your customers could’ve been calling it for years. With Local Number Portability (LNP) options, the good news is that you can enjoy the cost-savings of VoIP without overturning the front-end of your business by porting your existing numbers to your new VoIP provider. Although most VoIP providers will port your existing number, there are still a few that do not' so make sure that the provider you have chosen will port your existing numbers before you sign up. Take note that some VoIP providers still charge around $15.00 a number for porting, but many other providers (like Corvisa and Jive) already do it for free. Porting charges (if any) can be negotiated up front, and many times you can get providers to waive the fees. Porting your existing numbers is extremely important, so have your provider put in writing all of their fees (including porting fees, if any) as well as as an estimate of the porting time lines. Porting existing numbers usually take between 7 and 21 days, and the porting time is mainly controlled by the telecom company that is losing your business. Finally, you should negotiate your billing with your provider. Be sure that your billing does not start until your existing numbers are successfully ported, or request a month or two of free service up front to offset some of the porting time.
#3. Acquiring toll-free numbers
You may need to port existing toll free numbers or get access to new toll-free numbers, so ensure that the provider you are planning on switching to provides toll free service. Oftentimes, a VoIP service will include a monthly fee for a toll-free number (for instance, 8x8 charges $25.99 per month per toll free number, while others like Corvisa charge a per minute rate of $0.02). However, one of the greatest advantages of paying for a toll-free number is that your customers won’t be charged long distance fees to call you. That’s the purpose of a toll-free number: to make it simple and easy for your customers to reach you.
#4. The limits of ‘unlimited’ calling
Most business-class VoIP providers offer at least one “unlimited calling” plan that includes unlimited calling to the U.S.; and many include a slate of foreign countries with their unlimited calling plan, too. However, it’s a good idea to know what the caveats are, as most providers have limits or restrictions on their “unlimited calling" plans. The term “unlimited calling” usually comes with a footnote disclosure that it is "unlimited" only in terms of normal calling patterns. These usage limits are almost always higher than typical business users will experience, but it is important to check. Take note that the above points don’t cover all of the details of switching to a VoIP provider. They do, however, allow you to set some priorities. Check your bandwidth. Carefully establish the terms for porting numbers. Check how to acquire toll free numbers. And make sure you learn more about the terms and conditions surrounding the provider's "unlimited calling" feature.