With the introduction of NBN rollout in Australia, VoIP technology is the in-vogue technology. This will replace outdated and expensive systems.
It is never an easy chore to go shopping for a new phone system more so now that VoIP phone systems are in vogue while traditional landlines are becoming obsolete and being phased out. The amount of choice that is open to the buyer is huge and maybe intimidating with the easy option of just gambling on the most comfortable choice which may leave buyers on expensive, basic-featured phone systems tied on long term contracts. It is important to know that you could save as much as 80% on calls and monthly charges by switching to VoIP.
Here are ten important pointers to make buyers well informed on the purchase of new VoIP phone systems:
- Current Contract Situation
- The True Cost of VoIP systems
- Hosted/ Cloud-based VoIP
- On-Premise IP-PBX
- Some popular misconception about IP PBX corrected …
- New Features on the VoIP Phone System.
- What kind of cabling am I going to need?
- The best VoIP phones for me
- What are the most common problems with VoIP?
- What happens to the phones if the Internet or power goes down?
- What happens to our business phone numbers that our customers all know?
- What happens to our business on installation day?
- Who is an ideal customer for VoIP system solutions?
Current Contract Situation
At the point of buying or leasing your telephone system some time ago, a contract was signed, which covered the phone unit’s supply and support under some specified terms and conditions. It is essential to know when the contracts will expire or elapse; you will need to know if there are any automatic renewal conditions in the contractual terms. This is because such automatic renewal will roll over into a new extended period that may attract financial penalty to revoke.
Confirming contract status is vital as this is the first step in the preparation arrangements towards replacing and getting a new phone system. If you choose to switch to a new service provider and go through with the planning and at the migration stage, realize you are still bound to a contract that may attract a hefty fee to cancel. It should be noted that government regulation outlawed Automatically Renewable Contracts.
These were seen as restrictive to consumers- small business and residential sectors (i.e. making it difficult to change supplier) and generally harmful the industry service providers. Thus, providers are compelled to notify you well in advance before they roll over your contract so that you may have time to stop the renewal.
Once you are free of any contractual obligations and/or penalty from your old service provider, the new provider will then plan to install your new system, naturally under better terms and conditions.
The True Cost of VoIP systems
This depends on the number of users, and the volume of concurrent calls, both inbound and outbound the system handles. It also depends on the strength of your internet connection, which involves your broadband and bandwidth capacity.
Your service provider will give you a price (quote) on a custom-built phone solution for your business, their experts having taken all significant elements into account. Your provider will guarantee that you will save cost over the system’s lifetime as it will be cheaper to run.
You may be offered two types of solution proposals when you acquire a new VoIP telephone system. Namely-
Hosted/ Cloud-based VoIP
Cloud-based or Hosted VoIP provides telephones at your office, with the brain behind the calls held in a cloud data centre. Your phone uses your computer network and broadband to link with the data centre from where the hosting company routes your calls to their destinations. It must be noted that hosted VoIP attracts a monthly charge on every operational phone.
On-site or on-premise IP PBX is where you have your own VoIP server on-site, i.e. at the office. This server can connect local phone-sets and analogue, ISDN and SIP Trunk (virtual lines) channels. Though hosted on an Internet-based Media Server, the SIP trunks route calls to and from your IP PBX, which readily distributes all of the inbound and outbound call routings. It is your responsibility to get vendors whose call tariffs are cheap. In this model, you make a one-time purchase of the on-site equipment and pay a low monthly charge for SIP Trunk channels.
Some reputable VoIP solution providers prefer to offer ‘on-site systems’, instead of ‘Cloud-based systems’ because on-site solution offers many options and are not so expensive throughout their operative period.
So – here are some reasons why Hosted VoIP may not be the ‘cheap’ option it’s presented as:
- Hosted VoIP is presented as cheap to set-up due to its initial cost and the hardware’s monthly rental (Cloud Server). Short term, it may seem good, but the big difference between the systems is that in subsequent years, the ongoing expenses of the IP PBX will be less expensive because of the little fee charged for SIP Trunk channels, and very reasonable call rates.
This means that taking the hosted solution option is like buying a new phone system single every year for its lifespan.
- Some Hosted VoIP system vendors may not consider your current computer network. They will arrange for phones to connect into obtainable network sockets and use your modem to connect to the Internet. But this will lead to poor call qualities and other technical challenges which may result in a loss of customers for your business.
Some hosted VoIP vendors may set up a second network supporting your phones, and their Internet access to counter this. While this separates voice from data networks, it also makes it more expensive.
- Hosted VoIP solutions may lack the capacity to provide Hybrid line systems. When broadband is not available as a high-speed fibre service, it is more dependable to have an on-site system using SIP Box services that complement traditional copper wires or ISDN lines, even cell phones.
In a remote part of Australia where broadband is not so reliable, an IP PBX may be equipped with ‘Gateways’ for unconventional traditional POTS/ISDN line services.
- Hosted VoIP platforms provide an onward connection to local, national, mobile and International services through carrier partners under service and tariff agreements with your hosting company. Therefore, your hosting company’s call tariffs are set, and you – the end-user – cannot choose a different carrier to give you better rates to frequently called destinations.
On-site IP PBX server can be configured to ‘Least-Cost-Route’ calls through those SIP Trunk groups’ channel and DDI numbers based on the number dialled, leading to a substantial reduction in monthly call charges to mobile numbers.
- Hosted VoIP service providers usually have longer-term contracts to ensure that they recoup the investment in their central equipment and to cover the phones and network equipment they provided you at the start of the contract transaction.
Hosted VoIP solution could cost you four to five times as much as an on-premises IP-PBX at the end of that five-year contract! It is a good revenue spinner for Telecom companies, but not so cost-effective for you, the customer.
Some popular misconception about IP PBX corrected …
- On-site IP PBX systems may support working outside the business premises and remote office extensions just as capable as Cloud-based VoIP. Having an IP PBX Box does not thwart or make remote working to be harder.
This is because contemporary IP PBX systems operate platforms needing slight hardware care with full remote support facilities included – so that if needed, the service vendor can affect alterations for their clients from anywhere there is internet connectivity.
- Like hosted systems, it is fairly straightforward to implement an automated backup of on-site IP PBX equipment and provide alternate hardware if there is an IP-PBX system failure due to repairing or replacing the system.
- IP-PBX systems usually are much better combined with your Local Area Networks for computers. As such, utilization of software to integrate PC desktop directory and CRM apps is much more comfortable.
New Features on the VoIP Phone System.
VoIP provides some excellent new features to help business growth. More recent VoIP systems are easier to operate since they have digital labelling and fewer buttons than were available on the old digital phones.
Some great features to expect on a good VoIP system includes:
- VoIP systems that have apps that run on IOS and Android devices so that your mobile phones can become an active part of the phone system. This eliminates all call-tariffs between you and your cellphone users.
- Voicemails are forwarded to computer or cellphones as e-mails.
- Customers have a web-based dashboard where they can log in to configure or divert their phone extension, check their call history, voicemails, and use click-to-dial features.
- Call recording features either permanently on or occasionally as needed by the user.
- VoIP phone systems will provide advanced call queuing features-this will stop calls from being dropped by directing active calls to free agents and comprehensive call and Agent reporting for users with call centres.
- VoIP phones can integrate with ‘Customer Relationship Management’ [CRM] applications – to allow click-to-dial from the CRM database, and pop-up of customer data on receipt of an incoming call.
- Ability to use the extension web-portals for instant messaging and video collaboration/conferencing within a business Workgroup or Remote Team.
What kind of cabling am I going to need?
Modern VoIP phone systems come with the cat.5e or cat.6 data cables and RJ45 plugs and switches, like computers. This makes the merging of data and network cabling possible. It means that it is no longer compulsory to detach voice from data, and plugs and networks. Network switches with ‘Power over Ethernet’ (PoE) can power each phone down the data cable connection.
Preferably, it would help if you had separate cables for computers and phones. Still, in situations where there is only one data socket at a desk, it is possible to run a cable from that data socket to the phone, and then connect your PC to a second port of the 2-port network switch in the phone itself, or you can use softphones- which are software that is downloaded and run on desktop computers and laptops, in which the VoIP uses the same LANs or Wi-Fi to connect the softphone to the phone system.
The best VoIP phones for me
Many factors must be considered before choosing a VoIP business phone system but paramount amongst them being the needs and growth curve of the company
Your supplier or vendor or provider should recommend VoIP phones for their manufacturing quality, features, ease of use and compatibility with connection solutions, preferably an on-premise IP PBX system.
This is because VoIP phones can be configured quickly and easily from the modules of IP PBX. Such phones should also have extra features that can be personalized for users.
Such VoIP phones should make changes to all the phones through a single template, thereby making deployment faster.
What are the most common problems with VoIP?
Businesses may experience low quality on calls when network design factors are not taken into consideration. Call quality challenges often occur when there are combinations of huge call volumes, and a lot of data flow on the same network. This is because VoIP calls use little bandwidth, but downloads and file transfers use much bandwidth.
A computer network must be designed or upgraded to give the VoIP traffic primacy. This involves boosting your internet connection and network for voice and data traffics.
Quality of Service is essential for all VoIP systems, because, at some point, voice and data will combine on your network or the Internet. Therefore, QoS allows for voice traffics to be set in the ascendancy against other types of data on the network. Voice calls will always then have crystal clear quality.
Self- installation of a VoIP system is usually not as easy as some VoIP system vendors who ship phones for users to assemble may say. Reputable service providers will always send their experts to do the installation, train the users and ensure that the phone system is correctly connected and configured.
What happens to the phones if the Internet or power goes down?
Loss of mains power will cause problems, but temporary measures keep such disruption to the barest minimum. An Uninterruptible Power Supply unit (UPS), can be crucially installed, to maintain power to the core components so that the system will still be operational through a short blackout, or at the very least, will allow you to implement other solutions to keep receiving calls.
Broadband services are usually connected to offices on standard traditional analogue lines. Such lines can be attached to your IP-PBX using a ‘gateway’ module that makes the analogue line become a backup trunk in case of internet failure.
What happens to our business phone numbers that our customers all know?
Reputable service providers will transfer an old number, or groups of numbers, associated with analogue and/or ISDN lines from your old provider to the VoIP service that they sign you up to through a process known as porting. Calls to these numbers will then be received on your phone system through the SIP Trunks and become DDI numbers in your new phone system.
What happens to our business on installation day?
Your service provider will set up your new phone system to be able to make internal and outbound calls through SIP Trunks over the Internet. Primarily, incoming calls will still be answered on current or available phones within the premises.
The result is that the service provider will lessen disturbances within the business premises because both the old and new systems can be operational right up to when the call diversions are turned on.
Who is an ideal customer for VoIP system solutions?
VoIP is a suitable and perfect technology for any size and type of business that needs to keep in touch with its staff and customers and any business that wants to reduce costs associated with its telecommunications.
The NBN is designed to connect Australian homes and businesses by replacing older, outdated infrastructure with new, boosted and superfast connections. This policy will disconnect all old systems and numbers once it is fully deployed all over Australia. Hence, the need to embrace VoIP phone systems.