You may already know that switching your business phone system to a VoIP system can help you save money while enjoying an expanded set of phone features. While there are a variety of systems, networks, and hardware to choose from, the most important choice is that of your VoIP service provider.
A bad VoIP service provider will saddle you with unnecessary equipment, bad call quality, and few avenues for complaint or reimbursement for downtime. In contrast, a good service provider will offer business-appropriate services, good customer support, and a high-quality service level agreement.
VoIP phone systems are marketed to both businesses and consumers as an inexpensive alternative to traditional phone lines. However, there is a great deal of difference between consumer and business-grade VoIP services. If you have a small business with just a few employees, you may be tempted to consider purchasing the former rather than the latter.
- Consumer-grade services tend to lack important features that your business needs. These features can include auto attendant, smart phone applications, and CRM software integration – features that may be necessary to keeping your business running smoothly.
- Consumer voice networks may also be less reliable than those built specifically for businesses.
- You may be able to save money and benefit from better technical support by subscribing to the VoIP services offered by your internet service provider. In case of technical issues, you only have to deal with one company responsible for your internet and phone, not two.
Jitter, latency, and packet loss are all call quality issues particular to VoIP service that can result in broken speech, echoes, voice delays, and dropped calls. These issues can be caused by poor-quality VoIP service, or by your network.
- Before purchasing and installing your VOIP system, you should assess the quality of your network connection and networking equipment. Only when your network is running at peak performance can you then determine how well your internet phone service is working.
- Network problems and outages can cause you to lose phone service; be sure that your VOIP provider has a plan in place to deal with outages and primary network failures.
Service Level Agreement (SLA)
Most of the major VoIP providers offer their customers a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that outlines what degree of quality is guaranteed with their service, and provides a maximum acceptable level of poor call quality. This type of document makes it easier for both the provider and the customer to determine when a refund for poor service is appropriate. It also gives providers a clear impetus for providing the best service possible.
- Make sure that the provider you choose has a SLA that clearly defines the limits of those thingsthat can degrade a call, such as jitter, latency, echoes, and packet loss.
- Beware vague, non-quantifiable standards that may be interpreted different ways. The SLA should state specific parameters, such as: “Monthly jitter performance will not exceed 1.0 millisecond.”
- A good VoIP provider will not charge you for the service it provides when that service is not performing to the standards outlined in the SLA.
One of the main reasons that consumers and businesses don’t switch over to VoIP systems is the belief that they have inherently worse call quality. However, in truth, call quality is determined by two things:
- The quality of the system’s network connection
- The quality of the service provider.
If you optimize your network for VoIP and choose a good provider with a strong SLA, you’ll have an equally good experience with VoIP phone systems.
Megan Webb-Morgan is a web content writer for ResourceNation. She writes about small business, focusing on topics such as phone systems.