How do I choose a VoIP System?

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Before we look at choosing a VoIP system, let us clear a couple of things up for those who may not be totally sure of what VoIP is.

VoIP systems are the latest and greatest technology since the invention of the telephone itself, Voice over Internet Protocol, it does what it says on the tin. With VoIP, you can make calls over the internet rather than over a phone line. It’s brilliant, VoIP is cost-effective, it’s flexible and you get just as good, if not better, quality of calls.

Got it, so what are my options?

So, assuming you are now safe in the knowledge of what VoIP actually is, let’s look at your options when it comes to choosing a system, the pro’s and con’s and which will best suit you and your business.

There are 3 systems to choose from when it comes to VoIP:

1. Software Solutions

Commonly referred to as the “softphone”, it is a piece of software on your computer desktop allowing you to make phone calls over the internet using a headset or microphone to other users of the application; think Skype – the world’s most popular VoIP system.

2. Hosted or Cloud-Based VoIP

The hosted VoIP system is hosted by a third-party provider who has all of the systems and hardware in place via the cloud. You will have a handset which links into that system via the internet.

The cloud-based VoIP system cost is based on per handset/seat and it incorporates the lines. You have minimal initial investment apart from handsets but you don’t have to look maintain any hardware.

3. Self-Hosted VoIP

Basically, you have the hardware either on-site (alongside your server) or hosted off-site in a data centre which uses the internet line that you have in place or if you want to guarantee voice quality, we recommend you have a specialist internet pipe for VoIP.

The business will pay for and in turn own the equipment, including the PBX hardware required. Having a self-hosted system means you have complete control and if your company is looking to grow, this type of system makes it a lot easier to do so.

After you’re set up costs, you have a set cost per month for your line services (plus the cost of your phone calls) rather than the hosted solutions where you pay per handset plus any hardware maintenance charges.

Which is best for me?

Although I have outlined 3 key VoIP systems, I’m going to suggest that you are here as you are interested in a solution for your business that is slightly more advanced than a Skype-style software. We will look at the two main VoIP systems, hosted and self-hosted.

When choosing a system it is worth asking yourself some key questions:

  1. Is your business looking to expand?
  2. How technically involved do you want to/can you be?
  3. What is your budget?

Is your business set to grow fairly rapidly?

  • With a Hosted VoIP system it is easy to add new seats/extensions should the business continue to expand.
  • With self-hosted you will need to buy a system larger than you first need to accommodate growth.

Do you currently have an on-site IT department?

  • For a small company with limited IT experience, a hosted system in which all the maintenance and upgrades are handled by the service provider could be ideal.
  • If you want full control of your system and either has on hand IT assistance or you or your colleagues possess the technical expertise to manage an onsite Self-hosted option, then it this may be the route you prefer to go down.

What will the cost be?

With a Cloud-Based VoIP system:

  • There is no hardware to buy and maintain apart from handsets (if you want handsets) and perhaps IP switches.
  • Businesses will pay a monthly fee on a per-user basis.
  • If the system goes down you are reliant on your provider to get it fixed ASAP but many cloud-based VoIP solutions have an automatic failover to minimise downtime.

With a Self-Hosted VoIP system:

  • There is a significant upfront cost since you have to purchase all of the equipment and ongoing maintenance charges too
  • You will need to ensure someone is on hand to service and maintain.
  • It is likely to work out cheaper, in the long run, should you be looking to expand and have a phone system that integrates with bespoke systems such as your CRM systems.

It is important that you choose the right phone system in order to support the infrastructure of your business and yes, having a business phone line is still as important as ever!

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