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July 15, 2010

Things to Consider Before Moving Your Small Business to VoIP

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor


With all the industry talk surrounding the benefits of Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), it can be confusing when trying to evaluate whether or not the small business owner should view this technology as a possible benefit for his organization. In a recent VoIP Insider blog, the writer examines what small business owners should evaluate before they are able to make a definite change.

For most companies, the interest in moving to a VoIP environment is driven by one or more of three key factors: the existing system is failing or the licensing is set to expire; the company is moving offices and planning out the details of that move; or maybe the company is paying too much for phone service and is seeking to explore other options.

In most situations, this really means that there is an interest in upgrading to expand on the potential of the phone system, save money on over communication costs, or both. The company can certainly benefit from lower costs and increased functionality, but neither one should be taken on blindly when it comes to a VoIP implementation.

Before making a change with your phone system, you need to consider the type of system you need to have - should it be a premise or hosted solution? If you need a premise-based system, it will take longer to implement simply because it needs to be wired, the system provisioned and the phones provisioned. Pre-configured services can minimize downtime, but you should still allow for a few week days of setup time. On the other hand, hosted systems are much quicker to install as the system is preconfigured or easily installed on the phones currently in place.

Money savings is not always black and white and changes according to the company. You first have to examine the amount and type of calls you are already completing. If your calls are dominated by long distance or international charges, you may want to look at a hosted provider to reduce that cost. A premise solution will use a SIP trunk, which can provide a number of options and plans for customers seeking a lower cost per dial.

Upfront expenses are extremely important to consider as they will impact your cost of ownership and your ROI. Whether you select a premise or hosted solution, much of the upfront cost is tied to the phones. IP Phones will run in price from $60 on up to more than $400 depending upon what you need the phones to do in your environment. There are some hosted providers who will give away phones if you commit to a service contract.

Now that you have considered the big deciding factors when making a change in your phone system, consider five key elements that could indicate you either are or are not ready to make the move to VoIP for your small business.
1.      Is your phone system out of service or lacking performance?
2.      Do you need the features and functionality available in VoIP?
3.      Will you see true cost savings based on your habits?
4.      Do you have the budget and staff to maintain a VoIP system?
5.      Are you comfortable with the hurdles VoIP could present as your primary communication channel?
 

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Alice Straight



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