10 IMPORTANT QUESTIONS BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS CUSTOMERS SHOULD ASK
Companies of all sizes face many challenges in choosing from various options to help them succeed and grow in the world of commercial commerce. Such choices include selecting the right company phone system. This choice is made more difficult because there are not only many providers, but also, competing technologies. Hosted VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, has become quite prominent because of its growing popularity among businesses of all sizes.
The reason for its popularity is because of its many advantages over traditional telephony systems. Superficially, the difference between traditional service and VoIP might not seem to be much. However, both have gained more flexibility, though, one still holds an advantage over the other. The following Business Communications Buyer’s Guide will greatly assist businesses in determining which system is the right choice by answer the following important questions:
- Traditional telephone service or business level VoIP?
- Which communications and data features are important?
- Is mobility an option for both traditional service and VoIP?
- Which service will deliver the best return-on-investment?
- Which system type will easily scale as business grows?
- What kind of customer care and technical support are offered?
- Which type of system, traditional or VoIP, is most reliable?
- Which type of system, traditional or VoIP, offers better security?
- What setup time frames are expected with traditional and VoIP?
- What type of onboarding and training available with these systems?
1. TRADITIONAL TELEPHONE SERVICE OR BUSINESS-LEVEL VOIP?
The majority of companies begin their business phone service search between two choices: traditional copper wire service, or, cloud-based, VoIP service. It’s important to note, the technology gap between the two choices is quite large, and, must be understood to make the right decision.
Traditional copper wire service vs. High-speed internet technology
The most familiar service, of course, is traditional copper wire, which has not changed in the many decades it’s existed. This legacy technology is commonplace in commercial and residential settings. However, it’s VoIP, that’s gaining the most momentum among small to medium-sized businesses across practically every industry. One reason SMBs opt for VoIP is because of its seamless integration.
Cloud technology vs. On-site
One of the most stark differences between VoIP and on-premises services can be found in the necessary equipment. High-speed internet backed VoIP is based in the cloud, with its virtual PBX technology working off-site. By contrast, traditional telephony requires on-site PBX equipment hardware, which must be physically installed and maintained in each customer’s place of business.
Just in the last ten years, integration of cloud-based PBX and high-speed internet VoIP systems have resulted in a technological revolution in business communications. These combined technologies provide businesses with more communications features than ever before, and, at a reduced price.
The most interesting and useful dynamic resulting from this convergence is the transition from VoIP and cloud-based PBX being regarded as only available to big businesses, to the systems availability to a substantially more wide range of commercial consumers. In other words, this technology is now so affordable, that businesses of all sizes rely on it. VoIP is so versatile, it provides businesses with many features, some of which are:
- The use of IVR, or, interactive voice response, to answer customer calls and the ability to route inbound calls to a department, or, to an individual team member.
- The ability to place callers into a queue while waiting for a customer care rep, or, allowing callers the option to request a return call when a representative becomes available.
- The ability to maintain business communications even when natural disaster strikes, or, other devastating events, just by team members accessing a mobile application, or, plugging their phones into a high-speed connection in a location other than their workplace.
|Business VoIP(Cloud-hosted PBX)||Traditional Copper Wire(On-premise PBX)|
|No or little equipment necessary, with minimal cost)||Cost of Ownership||PBX equipment must be purchased, added costs through maintenance contracts|
|Monitored 24/7 by service provider||Security / Safety||Customer assumes all risk|
|Exponential||Scalability||Limited to physical equipment|
|Unlimited, with automatic updates (virtual)||Features / Updates||Installed, on-site at each business location|
|Simple internet interface||System Management||Done by technician, on-site, with pay per visit|
|Numerous calls per extension||Call Capacity||Limited to number of shared lines|
|Technology provides reliability and remote re-routing during inclement local conditions||Reliability||Completely reliant on physical hardware|
|Straightforward and easy||Implementation||Complicated and time-consuming|
With all these differences, just what is it that makes cloud-based VoIP the more flexibility and robust service possible? It’s actually quite simple. Hosted VoIP is an advanced and complex software system which is run over the internet, protected by highly redundant servers. Inside many data centers, communications are facilitated and routed between parties. These can be phone calls, email, voicemail, voice conferencing, video conferencing, or a variety of other services and features, such as voicemail to email and visual voicemail.
This is in contrast to traditional PBX copper wire systems, which operated on-premises of customer businesses. Changes to the virtual PBX VoIP systems can be made from a simple interface. However, changes to traditional telephony must be done on-site, and, come at an extra cost.
TOP CALLING FEATURES
2. WHICH COMMUNICATIONS AND DATA FEATURES ARE IMPORTANT?
Unlike traditional PBX telephone systems, there are additional features which are easily accessible through VoIP. Though traditional services do typically offer such features as caller identification, call waiting, call forwarding, and voicemail, there are a number of additional features available. These too, might be offered by traditional providers, but, at an extra cost. When premise-based customers want to add mobility features, call recording, or, desktop integration tools, these must be purchased separately. However, with VoIP, these same features are usually readily available.
It’s common for hosted VoIP provides to offer full suites of powerful communications features. These features are specifically designed to combine technology and communication, to foster business growth.
It’s important to note, though, not all VoIP companies will offer the same features. It’s crucial for businesses to look at what features are and are not offered, and/or included in various plans. Next, companies should carefully consider which are the biggest priority to assist with day-to-day operations. TieTechnology is proud to offer some very useful features that businesses can use to keep lines of communications open and grow their revenue streams. Among these are reporting capabilities which allow businesses to identify and act on trends within their organization, as well as customer interactions.
3. IS MOBILITY AN OPTION FOR BOTH TRADITIONAL SERVICE AND VOIP?
The trend of telecommuting is an ever-increasing phenomenon. Combines with sales teams constantly on-the-road, the need to provide every team member with access to a business’ communication system is an absolute necessity, no matter which device being used.
In conjunction with on-the-go sales team members and telecommuters, there are other employees required by their companies to participate in BYOD, or, bring your own device to work. Therefore, businesses need a mobile app that allows BYOD employees and contractors to tap into their proprietary communications systems from their own devices. These mobile apps offer a win-win scenario, with BYOD team members gaining access, no matter where they might be located, without having to incur voice and data charges. In addition, these mobile apps display on out-going calls, the name and number of the business, rather than private numbers.
It’s more crucial than at any other time in a competitive commerce environment to provide the capacity to give all team members access to a business’ communication system, regardless of their location.
Without such freeing technology, as soon as team members leave a business’ premises, they traditionally lose access to the company’s communication system. Mobility solutions are essential to keep open lines of communication. These systems, because of their intended function, must offer plenty of user amenities, along with a robust suite of features, based in cloud computing. Utilizing the power of the internet, mobility is uninterrupted through this technology. Conversely, traditional providers only provide mobile solutions with costly add-ons and/or some form of expensive integrations.
It’s important to note that the majority of providers do offer mobile solutions, either through basic contract features, or, through add-ons. The latter might come at the cost of à la carte prices, or, be included with simple enabling and disabling features. Commercial consumers should carefully review and compare plans which include mobile applications to learn about costs, utilities, and device integration.
TieTechnology provides wonderful mobile apps, built for iOS and Android, which provides nearly instantaneous access to a company’s communication system by team members. There are additional features which employees can access, such as the ability to move desk phones from company location to a completely different location — simply by plugging into an internet connection.
PRICES AND SAVINGS
4. WHICH SERVICE WILL DELIVER THE BEST RETURN-ON-INVESTMENT?
It’s true, a top-quality phone system is a financial investment within a corporate organization, but very few companies have the resources to pay for such an expensive communication system. Many company owners are pleased to learn about the considerably reduced price-point of organized VoIP systems versus traditional systems. However, pricing has a lot to do with the technology itself.
Hosted VoIP service providers manage and hone their PBX virtually in the cloud — so there’s no expensive maintenance costs associated with the technology or expensive service technician visits required.
Conventional premise-based companies construct their feature-enabling PBX in a web server space in each consumer’s workplace, which includes hefty equipment costs, labor expenditures, as well as long-term maintenance costs. Hosted VoIP service providers host and manage their PBX in the cloud virtually — so there are no pricey devices to maintain or costly technician visits required. The outcome is cloud-hosted VoIP solutions are offered at a substantially reduced cost.
Every communications provider has a proprietary pricing structure. Many offer base plans and charge additional fees for extra features, and/or line management. What’s more, base plans usually lack key communications features. When considering price, ask the following:
- Are there setup fees required?
- Are there additional monthly charges over-and-above monthly base fees?
- Which features are included in the package, and which options are only available by paying additional fees?
- What are the international calling rates, and, is long-distance and/or international calling included?
- Is there a required contract and what are the cancellation fees, if any?
In addition to these questions, you should inquire about contractual obligations as most traditional communications providers do require commitments. Conversely, the majority of hosted VoIP providers don’t require such commitment, especially for standard plans. Commercial consumers should take into account value, along with price-point for business phone systems. While the least expensive option will certainly be attractive, quality of the system, priced a bit more, but, provides a more robust suite of features, customer care, and ROI offer better value and use in the long-term.
TieTechnology offers numerous commercial communications options, priced significantly lower than those of traditional providers. What’s more, there are no annual contracts or cancellation charges. When considering the many suite features, functionality and reliability, and superior customer service and technical support, corporate consumers discover our systems to offer the most value in the marketplace.
5. WHICH SYSTEM TYPE WILL EASILY SCALE AS BUSINESS GROWS?
Small and medium-sized business rely on growth and their phone system is a large part of the process. It must be able to expand and adapt with company dynamics. In some instances, companies need to make simple communications changes to support their evolution. Regardless of the reasons, having peace-of-mind of knowing a phone system will scale as necessary, is quite worthwhile.
Scaling is one of the single most important factors to business growth and should be a key consideration for any commercial organization.
Traditional, on-site PBX systems are not whatsoever known for their adaptability or flexibility. These usually require, on-site technician visits, costing out-of-pocket to manage features or make other changes. Since saving time and money are essential to any business organization, hosted PBX systems are superior because these are based on PBX located in the cloud and require no on-site technician visits.
The ability of a business communication system to scale as needed, is a crucial consideration for any sized organization. Our system easily scales to fit any new needs. In fact, customers are able to make feature changes right from the administration interface on their own. Of course, customers may also contact customer support for assistance when needed.
CUSTOMER AND SYSTEM ASSISTANCE
6. WHAT KIND OF CUSTOMER CARE AND TECHNICAL SUPPORT ARE OFFERED?
Because the majority of small and medium business organization to not employee full-time IT professionals, or, only have part-time technicians, having to maintain the company’s phone system is not a top priority. Since there is a lack of dedicated staff for such duties, small and medium businesses typically rely on their communications provider. This presents problems for commercial consumers, particularly those moving from one provider to another.
This is further complicated because traditional providers construct PBX systems equipment on-site of companies. This results in a need for constant maintenance, an inconvenience for businesses which can include communication down time. When a customer needs to an additional communication feature, the business must schedule a technician to visit on-site. Billing rates for such on-site services vary from provider to provider and can be quite costly.
Companies ought to consider the level of customer service included in each plan and factor into their decision-making process additional expenses for maintenance and upgrades.
Hosted VoIP providers, by contrast, employ virtual systems management. Feature-enabling and management is done in the cloud, so practically any type of service can be complete without having to schedule a day and time for a technician to visit. This very advantage allows most service-related issues to be resolved quickly and efficiently. What’s more, the majority of hosted VoIP systems can be managed by corporate organizations through a user-friendly interface. This allows enabling, disabling, and other management options through an internet portal.
Generally hosted communication providers offer website support and training tutorials to give customers more control through self-management. This gives small and medium businesses the opportunity to become more familiar with the communications system. For customers who prefer to interact with a provider support representative, and, these highly trained individuals are available, on-demand. This is an important consideration to take into account before committing to a purchase.
TieTechnology offers such customer-friendly concierge services with an in-house team of customer care professionals, available practically around the clock. In addition, customers can find answers on our website’s support page, which contains frequently asked questions, tutorials, and a troubleshooting guide. New customer orientation and system management training are also available.
7. WHICH TYPE OF SYSTEM, TRADITIONAL OR VOIP, IS MOST RELIABLE?
Put simply, there is no substitute for reliable business communications because every client interaction is an important one. Today’s marketplace enjoys such reliability, with greatly improved technology which offers high-quality telephony and other communications services.
The advantage of hosted VoIP over traditional PBX telephony is the former is based in the cloud and is protected by redundant cooling and power systems, which are able to provide service, even when the customer’s location is interrupted.
By stark contrast, traditional phone, location-based communications systems are adversely impacted due to downed telephone lines, fire damage, flooding conditions, vandalism or theft, as well as technical problems. Though hosted VoIP systems are powered and maintained in the cloud, but typically have solutions in-place to prevent outages even when local conditions do not permit.
TieTechnology incorporates multiple redundancies within secure and advanced call-management clusters inside data centers that provide its small and medium size business customers with an impressive uptime rate of 99 percent. In addition, when a power outage does occur, or, there is loss of internet connectivity, a superior and nimble automation nearly seamlessly re-routes calls to a mobile phone, or, another device or location.
8. WHICH TYPE OF SYSTEM, TRADITIONAL OR VOIP, OFFERS BETTER SECURITY?
Security is of the utmost concern for any business organization, whether its communications are routed through traditional, on-site PBX telephony equipment, or, in the cloud, over the internet. Fortunately, today’s commercial consumers are have the benefit of improved technology, which offers exceptional security and provides a more robust suite of communications solution that can be used without security compromise.
No so many years ago, the majority of small and medium-sized businesses regarded cloud technology as imperfect and unreliable. Its viability was uncertain, but now, advances make hosted VoIP a superior communications solutions with its many security protocols.
Today, it’s very common for commercial organizations, small, medium, and large, to migrate all aspects of the communications systems to the cloud.
The best hosted VoIP providers are very conscious about protecting corporate customer data and place a great deal of effort in maintaining secure services and products. Although there is no 100 percent guarantee against breach, these providers routinely protect with advanced encryption and well place protocols. Surprisingly, these are typically more secure than traditional telephony systems. In furtherance of security, some hosted VoIP provides insist on proprietary technology development, rather than gaining access to third-party solutions.
Businesses should ask and understand about different providers’ security approaches. In addition, it’s best to know what type of protocols are in-place to ensure that communications are secure and reliable. TieTechnology is proud to offer some of the most secure and reliable communications solutions in the industry.
9. WHAT SETUP TIME FRAMES ARE EXPECTED WITH TRADITIONAL AND VOIP?
Equipment-heavy, traditional PBX copper wire telephony systems, because of their very nature, are bulky, unwieldy, and awkward. This means setup time consists of a lengthy process and burdens the customer business with comprised storage space. Often, this is a collage of wires and equipment, which can easily take-up an entire storage area. Before the installation process even begins, traditional providers usually require a signed contract. Only after a commitment is made, does setup begin and it’s a process than can literally take weeks to complete.
Conversely, hosted VoIP does not rely on such equipment and because contracts are not so restrictive, setup can be done in a single day. There are only a few steps to activate VoIP service:
- An established internet connection on-site of the business ordering communications service.
- hipping of preconfigured phones from the provider to the business. (If the commercial customer already possess VoIP phones, the provider will simply reconfigure these to interact with the new system.)
- After phones are delivered, or existing phones are reconfigured, the customer contact its new hosted solutions provider to initiate service. Phones are then immediately plugged into an internet connect and are ready for use.
Because the transition is so simple and easy, there is little to no downtime involved in the setup process. This not only is advantageous to customers, but also, provides them with the benefit of quickly switching service providers. It is common for new corporate consumers to need a small level of customer support soon after initial installation. A trained professional will speak with the business owner and team to assist with any other requests. New features may be added and existing features changed, all over the span of a short phone conversation.
10. WHAT ABOUT ONBOARDING AND TRAINING?
Companies need to jump off the starting block with confidence. A huge part of success can be attributed to available tools and resources. The better these are, in cooperation with talent, businesses can strive to reach the next levels. When considering different communications providers, it’s essential to understand how different platforms approach their onboarding process and how the system can be learned. A few common issues for customers new to VoIP communications are:
- Number porting. Customers new to VoIP service might be confused about how to integrate existing phone numbers into a new system. The transference process is typically the responsibility of the new provider. Customers are specifically requested to give approval authority to work in tandem with the customer’s former communications provider. This process can take between one and four weeks for completion. In these instances, the new VoIP provider will setup temporary phone numbers until the porting process is finished.
- Account and billing setup. Because of its technological advantage, leveraging the power of the internet, account and billing setup is a quick and simple process, completed in just moments.
- Training. It’s important to know what materials and resources are made available to customers for training. Some providers offer virtual training through online tutorials, along with other materials.
- Internet and phone support. With VoIP service, corporate customers are able to access online support on any day at any time. Because these systems are intended to also be managed by customers, as well as the providers, there are many means of support, whether it’s online or over the phone.
TieTechnology is happy to provide any necessary onboarding support and team member training. Our company strives to make the transition smooth and to get customers familiar with the system and its interface. Other support materials are also readily available, but most new customers find it’s simple to setup and manage themselves.