Fast forward from the days when a telephone was a household appliance that hung on the kitchen wall and there was only one or two choices for phone service providers, to today’s world where voice is just another application that rides over IP networks. A quick search on Apple’s application store or the Android market place will yield over 1000 results for voice applications. Not all of these will provide you with dial tone, but certainly the most obvious example of this change manifests in the explosion of service providers offering voice services such as Skype, Google, Cable companies and a myriad of OTT (Over The Top) VoIP providers. The traditional players in the industry, which includes the ILEC’s such as Verizon and AT&T, are also going through a renaissance in the way they view and deliver voice services and struggling to redefine it as an application rather than a service.
So, as an end user or purchasing decision maker, how do you navigate through the barrage of new voice and phone options? Here are four points for you to use as a guide:
- Providers – Start with the company itself (to determine if they are solid and will be around to provide your service for the foreseeable future). This will narrow down your search considerably…and don’t forget to look for any customer service or consumer reviews that give you insights into how they treat their customers!
- Service Offerings – Next, evaluate the products based on your needs. If you are a company with basic needs, then you may not be ready to make the leap into a Hosted VoIP solution. However, if your end users are looking for the applications such as voicemails that route to their email box, or integration between their mobile devices and desk phone applications then you should consider the kind of hosted VoIP services offered by EarthLink Business and other business VoIP providers.
- Quality Versus Cost – Service providers will deliver the calls in a variety of ways. Some utilize your existing Internet connection from a third party to deliver the voice services. This method is usually the most economical way to purchase the services, but the downside is that if, or more likely, when voice quality or service interruptions occur the voice service provider has very limited means to improve quality or impact change in the network that delivers the service. The type of access being used to deliver the service is also important. For companies that use dedicated network connectivity from their network to your location the amount of quality control increases dramatically. However, usually the cost of the service also increases. The exception to this is in providers who deliver services over “blended access” networks meaning that they have the flexibility to utilize multiple forms of access including lower cost access such as ADSL to deliver voice services over their network and they have control of the quality of delivery through the network to your premises.
- What other applications do you need? Most providers package voice with other services such as internet, voicemail, email, web hosting, conference calling, data networking (MPLS networks), entertainment and a variety of other applications. Decide which applications are important to you and find a provider that offers the best mix of services.
At the end of the day, understanding that voice is an application opens up your options in selecting a provider. Thinking about what you need, how important quality is to you and who is the best provider to do business with will bring your search back down to earth and make your decision a lot easier.
To learn how EarthLink Business has incorporated quality and functionality into our suite of competitive voice offerings, click over to the Voice Services page on our website.