In any office environment, if you’re set up with PCs and an Internet connection, there’s really not much more you need to do to prepare to a move to a hosted business VoIP system.
In most cases, it’s as simple as signing up for service with an established provider, installing phones (and perhaps a router) and integrating them into your existing network. Then voila – you have a service that’s more feature-rich than traditional phone systems, and also a service that’s more reliable, more flexible and less expensive.
In most cases, a hosted business VoIP system will vastly expand your phone capabilities. Now you’ll have the ability to create a backup plan to protect your service in the case of a power outage, natural disaster or even an Internet outage. These are protections you just can’t get with traditional analog-based phone systems.
Another big bang for hosted business VoIP systems is that they have the capability to turn your smart phone into a tremendously flexible business communications tool, called a soft phone. With an application provided by your hosted business VoIP vendor, your phone can now take and make phone calls as if you’re in your office. This can be a huge advantage for small companies or travelers who want to maintain a professional image from anywhere, at any time.
One question that comes up a lot when a company is considering a move to a business VoIP system is what to do with the existing phone system? If you like your existing phone system and it’s not expensive to maintain, you may want to look at a service called SIP-Trunking. This is a service that enables you to keep all your phone-related hardware but replace your traditional phone carrier with VoIP. If, on the other hand, you do want to get rid of your phone system altogether, there’s not much value to the hardware related to your analog phone system. In fact, it won’t be long before the carriers shut down their analog networks. That’s another reason to move to VoIP – the sooner the better.
The next question that people have is what about my existing phone number? These days, it’s very easy to port numbers between carriers. That means you can keep your existing phone numbers. All that’s required is filling out a letter of authorization (LOA) form, which your new VoIP vendor will supply. It takes anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks for the numbers to be moved over. The timing of the process is controlled by your incumbent carrier. But during this process, your numbers will remain active – there’s no downtime in the process.
As far as selecting a VoIP vendor, here are a few important factors to consider:
- Look for a vendor that specializes in VoIP, rather than one that offers it as an added service through a third party.
- Make sure the company offers U.S.-based customer service and 24/7 technical support.
- The longer the company has been in the VoIP space the better, in this industry, experience is key.
- Beware a company that asks you to sign a long-term contract or one that offers free hardware. It’s always better to go with a company that offers a free trial and offers flexible, month-to-month contract terms and the ability for you to change services at any time without penalty.
- Make sure the service offers admin and end-user portal access, which enables your staff to manage the phone system and makes it much more user friendly.