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Switching to Hosted VoIP: Things to Consider

Many businesses these days are evaluating the switch from their traditional telephony environment to VoIP (or “Voice-over I.P.”).  There are many compelling reasons to do so that are too numerous to cover in this article but a recent independent research study by Metaswitch  lists them as:

  • More features—and better features that enhance productivity
  • Easier system management—service and features can be self-provisioned, whereas with legacy telephony these options are limited as well as more difficult to deploy
  • Customer service—VoIP operators understand how their new service can be utilized, and support it accordingly
  • Business grade—VoIP quality and reliability is now on par with legacy telephony

So with all the great benefits it is easy to see why so many customers are flocking in that direction.  However, it is important to understand how your business will need to adapt to this new environment and what it takes to get there.  Here are the top 5 things to consider:

1. Incoming Call Management – In most legacy systems, calls come into a main phone number and light up the keys on every phone in an office, then hunt down a group of lines until all lines are full.  With a hosted VoIP solution the options are virtually unlimited…which is good…but can be challenging when it comes to making decisions on how to most efficiently handle calls.   Each phone is assigned its own unique telephone number or “DID.”  The main phone number can be routed to a network-based auto attendant, an individual user, or a group of users in what is referred to as a MADN group.  There are also often call routing options that allow you to reroute calls to mobile phones, answering services, or multiple locations. Before you make a change, evaluate which options providers offer and make sure they meet the needs of your business.

2. Wiring – Most legacy phone systems used based copper wiring to deliver the phone signal to the phone set from the wiring closet.  With hosted voice you will most likely need Ethernet cabling to the user desktop or the area where the phone is located, such as a lobby or break room, where Ethernet has not previously been required.   Most VoIP providers will advise you to contract a third party wiring vendor to get this completed prior to the cut over of your services but some providers also provide structured cabling options as part of their service like EarthLink Business.

3. System Management – When moving to a hosted solution, end users and business administrators have much more power and control than they ever had with legacy systems.  This is a wonderful thing when users learn the features and are empowered to make changes from web based controls “on the fly”.  However, these admins need to learn the ropes of the new system (including what they are expected to control and what the provider has to control on their end).  Some VoIP providers offer the option of either self-managed or carrier managed business group administration services, which is a big benefit if you are a small business with no office administrator.

4. Quality of Service – Saving money is a key driver when considering a switch, but don’t forgo the quality and reliability of your telephony services just for a lower price point.   For example, there are plenty of options to get VoIP over the public internet, and user experiences can be good with this option.  However, if you experience quality issues with these voice calls, there is not much recourse for determining where the problem is and how to resolve it.  By using this method of delivery you are also voiding any service level agreements offered by the provider on quality of calls.  Many carriers offer options for secured, private network connectivity that also provides for quality of service guarantees.   EarthLink Business provides multiple SLAs (Service Level Agreements) based on the types of services provided

5. Consultative Design – With all the options and things to consider when making a transition, it is important to have a subject matter expert (or better yet a team of experts) who can review your current environment, understand your future requirements and make recommendations on how you should design the VoIP services.   Most VoIP providers consider this a commoditized product and do not adequately address this area.  At EarthLink Business we provide a dedicated account team with subject matter experts on everything from VoIP to data networks to IT services that can address your complete environment when making a recommendation.  To find out more contact EarthLink Business!

About Scott Yelton

Scott Yelton
Scott has over 21 years of experience in the telecommunications industry. He currently serves as Director of Product Management, Voice and UC Services for EarthLink Business; he is responsible for management of growth and lifecycle products which span from Hosted Voice solutions to basic telephony services to mobile. Prior to its acquisition by EarthLink, Mr. Yelton was Director of Product Development and Strategy for Deltacom. Earlier in his career, Mr. Yelton led the Sales Engineering team for Deltacom and served in sales and sales management roles for Sprint and BTI Communications.