These are heady days if you’re offering business VOIP services. As businesses decide to move away from traditional ISDN services, the market is rich with opportunities. At the same time, though, there is plenty of competition. This is a sector with a low barrier to entry which means providers of all kinds are flooding onto the market. If you’re a business making a VOIP provider comparison can feel daunting.
The business VOIP market is booming. A report from Research and Markets found that the VOIP services market is expected to grow by 10% between 2017 and 2021. Landline usage is dropping off rapidly as businesses move quickly to stay up to date with the latest technology.
Number Of UK Business Cloud VoIP Users
In part, this is a fear of being left behind. Technology is playing an important part across the business spectrum. There is almost no part of an organisation which will not be affected. At every point technology holds out an opportunity to save money and reduce operational costs.
Theoretically, the capacity of a business to embrace digital technology could be a reliable indicator to its future growth prospects. Those which make the move early will find gains at multiple points. They will be able to offer a better product or service for less money giving them a sizable advantage against less tech-savvy competition.
Businesses are therefore being driven as much by a fear of being left behind as a desire to take advantage of the capabilities technology can offer. That can be dangerous because it encourages a rushed implementation with little thought about why they are doing it, what gains they hope to achieve and if their organisation is equipped to make the transition successfully.
Picking the right horse
One of the key decisions to get right will be choosing the best business VOIP provider. As with so many things there can be a significant difference between them but telling the good from the bad is not straightforward. They all make impressive claims, but how do you know if that will translate into the real world?
A good starting point is the internet and social media. Businesses often trawl social media sites, searching their name to see what people are saying about them.
As a buyer you can do this too. Simply search the name of a provider and see what comes up. As consumers we’ve become very good at using the internet to vent out frustrations. It puts our dissatisfaction out in the open, so if there is a string of messages talking about the same issues – such as a poor connection, for example – it’s a red flag that this company may have serious issues.
You can also get a good read on a company by seeing what guarantees it is willing to give and how willing it is to share customer references with you. The more they offer, the more confident they are about their package.
A good provider, for example, will offer features such as a service level agreement (SLA) which is a contract governing the performance of the system after implementation. This gives you a degree of redress if the service, for any reason, fails to match your expectations.
They might also offer a quality of service (QOS) guarantee which means they will guarantee to
deliver a good quality service. This might involve analysing your network requirements, making sure you have enough bandwidth and prioritising telephony services to ensure call quality remans excellent.
As part of this, you might see an uptime guarantee. This refers to the amount of time a service will be available and the support on offer. A firm which regularly exceeds its up-time guarantee, for example, is one which is likely to go above and beyond the call of duty for its customers. It demonstrates a commitment to excellence and a determination to provide the very best services possible.
Of course, it always pays to think about what you can do when things go wrong. Even the most reliable service may experience problems from time to time and, if that happens, you want to know you have access to support which can solve the problem. That’s not always the case. If you experience a problem out of hours, you could be left waiting until the morning before someone gets to work on the problem.
About the technology
Part of the challenge of finding a VOIP provider can be understanding the jargon that comes with it. VOIP firms seem to delight in filling their marketing material with acronyms and technical terms that most people will not understand.
So here are a few of the key terms you’ll need to get to grips with:
- Packet loss: When any data is sent across the internet a certain amount will not reach its
destination. This is called packet loss, and if it exceeds a certain threshold it can impact call
- Latency: Data will take a certain amount of time to reach its destination and the further
away this is, and the lower the quality of technology, the longer this will be. Excessive
latency will lead to callers talking over one another and a lower sound quality.
- Codec: This is the technology used to transmit the technology and stands for ‘code’ ‘decode’. Data may be compressed as it leaves and decompressed as it reaches the destination. High quality codecs such as G711 use no compression and have a high call quality but will require a lot of bandwidth. G729 offers a good quality at a lower bit rate. However, it uses much more GPU processing time in order to make the call.
These are just some of the terms you’ll need to understand in order to cut through the marketing bluff and identify the best business VOIP provider for your needs. Every business will be different and will be working to different rules. A business needs to understand its capacity for VOIP connectivity, why it needs VOIP and how much it is willing to spend. That will be the best way to help find your perfect VOIP match.