5 Considerations for Choosing a Cloud-based Phone Service
There are many things to consider before signing a contract with any cloud or hosted IP phone service provider. The features, pricing, equipment, call quality and support offered by each carrier must be compared carefully, to ensure that you’re choosing a service that fully meets your calling needs, as well as your budget.
Phone and System Features
It’s important to ensure that any cloud or hosted IP phone service that you select offers the calling features that your business needs. Basic features like call hold and call transfer are pretty standard with any provider, but advanced features like mobile twinning (that enables simultaneous ringing for incoming calls by linking your mobile phone and desk phone) and hot desking (that allows you to use any phone on a network to answer/receive calls for your desk extension) may not be automatically included by all service providers.
Using advanced features like mobile twinning, hot desking and others can boost your productivity, so it is important to get a complete list of available features from each cloud or hosted IP phone provider, before signing a contract.
Another important factor that you need to consider is the reliability of the phone service itself. Some phone systems are device dependent, and important features like call forwarding and call redirect won’t work, if you are logged out of your calling device or your calling device is offline for any reason. On the other hand, many service providers offer the reliability of cloud-based hosting of important calling features like call forwarding etc., so you never have to worry about these features functioning properly, when your office phones are down due to a power outage, natural disaster or other emergency.
In the end, you need to ensure that any cloud or hosted IP phone provider that you choose has a well designed platform that keeps important calling features online, in the middle of any kind of equipment or system failure.
Another critical area to check into is the phone equipment that’s offered by each cloud or hosted IP phone provider. There are many attractive phones on the market, however, in many cases they are also very cheaply made and simply will not last. Therefore, you should make sure that your service provider offers high quality name-brand phones with an acceptable warranty, before signing any contract.
You also need to ensure that the cloud or hosted IP phone provider offers a variety of phone styles, for different uses. Specialized phones and extension modules are commonly used for conference rooms, receptionist’s stations and intercom applications, so it’s important to inquire about your options, when it comes to the different types of phones that each vendor offers.
Providers rely on one of two common methods for delivering their cloud-based phone services to consumers. The method that your provider uses can impact the quality of service that your business experiences, so it’s important to understand the differences between the two methods. It’s also important to consider whether or not a provider uses both methods, offering their customers an option of choosing between the two.
Having a choice over how your phone services are delivered provides your business with a high level of flexibility and control, allowing you to grow or shrink phone services based on current usage trends and budget constraints, across one or multiple offices or locations.
The first option for phone service delivery uses the Internet to transport calls. This method of service delivery is good for smaller companies and companies with a relatively low call volume, as call quality issues can occur when call volumes increase, due to band width limitations. If you choose this option, your business needs to ensure adequate band with on your local computer network to support call quality, which can be addressed to some level by adjusting your Quality of Service network configuration to prioritize VoIP traffic.
The second option for phone service delivery is a dedicated connection, which is also called a “managed circuit”. This is the preferred option for larger companies and organizations with large call volumes. With this option, the vendor is responsible for managing the direct connection, to ensure a high quality of service for your business.
Cloud-based phone service providers generally offer two types of pricing models to consumers: unlimited per user plans and custom plans. Unlimited plans can be a good value, providing a bundle of services at a significant discount, as compared to buying all of the same services on an individual basis.
On the other hand, a custom plan may be a better option for some, since unlimited plans come at a fixed price, which can represent wasted dollars, if you don’t use the services included in the plan enough to justify the cost. Before choosing a plan, you should carefully consider your needs, in the way of available features, number of lines, etc, to determine which type of plan offers the best value for your business.
Another choice that you may need to make is between renting and buying your phone equipment. Purchasing phones can be less expensive in the long run, but your business will be at a disadvantage, as more advanced phone technology becomes available, unless you pay for upgrades.
What’s more, once you purchase phones, you are also responsible for the cost of repair or replacement if they become damaged or break. For these reasons, renting phone equipment may be more advantageous than buying it, but only your can decide which option is right for your business.
With the above, you should also be aware that pricing and business models vary greatly from one cloud phone services provider to the next. In addition, understanding what is included in a plan or with a phone can be tricky, so it’s important to ask enough questions and get all offers writing, to ensure that your chosen provider actually delivers what was promised, in terms of features, equipment and price.
No matter how good a cloud-based phone service appears on the surface, you can easily lose a bundle if you sign a contract with a fly-by-night provider with poor customer service, who may not be in business 5 years from now.
Because phone services are so vital to a business operation, it’s critical to find out how long a provider has been in business and how many customers they have, to get some idea about the stability of the company. This is a very important step to take, because a cloud-based phone service can be started without a major financial investment and providers have been known to disappear seemingly overnight, leaving their former customers high-and-dry.
Take your time, do your research and find the right option for you current and future needs.