How to choose the right VoIP provider
The challenge of finding a good VoIP service provider
Choosing the right best VoIP service for business can be daunting. There are a lot of companies claiming to have the best service, so figuring out which one to believe can be a bit confusing.
To help you out, here are some tips on how you can choose the right VoIP provider:
1. Know what VoIP is first.
Before hopping into using any new technology, you have to do your research to understand it and how it will affect your company. The same applies to VoIP, especially since it will be the basis of how your business communicates.
What is VoIP?
To understand the technology, we need to start with the definition of VoIP. VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is a telecommunications innovation that allows users to make voice calls over the internet. Unlike traditional phone lines, where audio travels through the Public Switched Telephone Networks (PSTN), VoIP is transmitted through IP networks. As a result, it can be accessed from anywhere, as long as there’s an internet connection. This mobility and flexibility separate the technology from traditional telecoms.
2. Know your business communications needs and how VoIP can solve them.
Now that you understand what VoIP is, the next step is to figure out how it can help your business. To do that, however, you’ll have to start by identifying the business communications needs of your organization.
Some of the questions you may want to ask in regard to those needs are:
- What type of business phone number does the business need? Does it need a toll-free number, local number, international number, or any combination of the three?
- Does your business make a lot of outbound calls?
- Does your business receive a lot of inbound calls? Do you need a call routing solution?
- Do you have multiple locations?
- Do you have a distributed workforce? Do you have remote workers or telecommuting workers?
- Do you use fax and/or business SMS?
- Do you need an audio or video conferencing solution?
- Do your teams collaborate a lot?
- Do you want your business tools to integrate with your communications solution?
These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself as a business owner on the lookout for new phone solutions. Once you have identified your operational needs, you can start to look for VoIP providers that can meet your requirements.
3. Check different VoIP providers for business (and what their plans include).
There are a number of VoIP providers that might be able to meet your business communications needs—you just need to narrow it down to one. But first, let us define what a VoIP provider is so you’ll know what to start looking for.
What is a VoIP provider?
Here’s the short definition of a VoIP provider: It’s a company that delivers VoIP phone service to its customers. In the context of this article, the customers in question are businesses.
These service companies usually follow the Software as a Service or SaaS model where instead of selling their VoIP service to businesses as on-premise solutions, they have clients subscribe to a remotely hosted service. This removes the need for companies to make additional investments to their own architecture just to host the service—which usually requires a number of servers and extra hardware. With SaaS, they only need to pay a relatively fixed amount during the period they are using the service. If they are not happy with the service, they can simply unsubscribe and move on to another provider without worrying about special equipment they’d already invested in just to use one service.
What are the different types of VoIP providers?
There are different types of VoIP providers in the marketplace. They generally fall under these three:
- VoIP-only providers
There are providers who focus solely on directly providing telephony functions for businesses and consumers. This may include some basic features, like voicemail, call forwarding, and caller ID, but usually no call management features are included. If you are only looking for phone calling functionality and not much else, then these providers may already be on your radar.
- VoIP with cloud phone system providers
There are providers who leverage the cloud by combining VoIP with cloud PBX technology. These cloud-based phone systems have VoIP as the foundation of their telephony component combined with the advanced routing capabilities of a hosted PBX. Aside from the ability to make and receive calls over the internet, these providers offer businesses call management features like auto attendant, answering rules, and virtual extensions for departments and individuals.
- VoIP as part of unified communications solution providers
These are providers that are similar to VoIP with cloud phone system providers, but they take their offerings to another level. These companies combine different communications tools, like VoIP, cloud PBX, online meetings, and team messaging, into one platform. This provides businesses a central hub for communications instead of having to use different vendors for different communication tools.
Obviously, the third option addresses most, if not all, of the most common business communications needs while improving efficiency by combining solutions in one platform—with the bonus of ensuring that you won’t have to worry about their compatibility with each other.
4. Determine the VoIP provider’s reliability and security.
Even if a VoIP provider meets all your business communications needs, your scrutiny should not end there. You also have to determine how they keep their service reliable and secure.
Is VoIP secure?
By itself, VoIP is not a secure service. The data it transmits passes through the internet, which is a public network. This makes said data susceptible to interception or breach, especially during transmissions.
However, security measures can be deployed to protect data during VoIP calls.
One of the most effective security measures employed by top providers is strong high-level encryption. Encryption refers to the process by which data, in this case, voice calls, are converted from the original form to an encoded version that can only be decoded via a decryption key. It is the most important measure in securing data for end-to-end transmissions across IP networks.
To ensure reliability, the top VoIP providers also have multiple data centers set up in different locations. The idea is that multiple servers in multiple data centers result in redundancy of service. This means that in the event that a server fails, another server can take over in real time. The same goes for when a whole data center goes down, another data center can take over the service so that there will be no disruption.
Other security and reliability practices that top VoIP providers employ include:
- Regular audits of data centers
- Support of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
- Advanced account management and administration
- Robust and secure networks
5. Know what others are saying about the VoIP provider.
Another factor you should look at is the reputation of the VoIP provider you are evaluating for your organization. While it is difficult to separate valid reviews from spam reviews, it’s still worth investigating the general opinion people have about the company.
One thing you can look at is the number of subscribers. Generally, when a provider has a large number of users, it means they are trusted by their customers and the industry to provide reliable and secure service.
Another thing you can look at is the brands that trust the provider for their communications. Big brands do not just sign up for a service; they do their due diligence and get assurance that they will get a good return on investment.
6. Check the VoIP plans and pricing of the vendor.
If you have noticed, plans and pricing are mentioned last. That is not a coincidence. Like with any commodity in this world, price should not be the first factor you look at when you’re looking for quality.
There may be lower-priced VoIP services, but their reliability and security can be questionable. There is also a reason top providers charge more for their service. The research and development they invest in to put out the best product is part of what you are paying for.
Only after you have streamlined your list should you consider price. Of the providers on your list, which one gives you the best value for your money? That vendor should be your top choice.
By following these steps, you should be able to make an informed decision on which VoIP provider is best for your business.