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Thinking of Hosted VoIP Services – 10 questions to ask before you sign on the dotted line… April 19, 2010

Posted by TelUS Consulting Services in VoIP catagory.

If you are exploring signing up for a hosted IP PBX provider is just like signing up for cable TV, remember that the provider is trying to lock you in to a long-term contract at terms that give them the most profit, while you’re just trying to get the service and features you need at the lowest possible price.

The key to avoiding a contract with more (or less) service than you need is asking the right questions.

This list covers what questions you should ask before you sign on the dotted line. If you have specific concerns such as advanced call center features that might affect your business, you’ll want to add them to the list as well.

1. What is the contract-termination policy? You want to know whether you can get out early without a penalty and what the other termination costs might be. Be sure to check the policies on equipment, as well as those that apply to the basic service.

2. What startup costs are there beyond setup and equipment fees? This is where you want to look for hidden costs. Find out exactly what you’ll need to get service. Ask if phones, extra servers, interface cards and other add-ons are included or if they cost extra. Be particularly careful about phones; if the phone is free, it’s quite likely to be extremely basic, and you may need more features. Think of the phone as a piece of equipment you use all day, every day, and you’ll get an idea of why you want the best phone.

3. What day-to-day usage costs are not covered by my service plan? What are the rates for international calls, for example?  This is yet another place where hidden fees lurk. Make sure there aren’t any add-on fees for important features. This is particularly true if you make a lot of international or toll-free calls or if you need extensive inbound toll-free calls. What are your per seat charges, this is typically how hosted providers charge per line used.

4. Can the system handle outbound and inbound faxes out of the box? Can I just plug in a fax machine or do I need special equipment? Faxing is a hidden gotcha of VoIP. The bottom line is that just because you have a phone line with VoIP, it doesn’t mean you can plug a fax into it. QOS and delay issues may necessitate a separate land line for faxes only.

5. Do I need add-ons or extras to handle old-style analog phones that I already have or that remote or 5. branch offices have already installed? Fortunately there is a solution to this issue that can save you some money. If you have offices that already have extensive, modern analog phones, some provider systems will work with them as transparently as with more advanced SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and VoIP phones. You will need to double check what features are supported on analog phones and how they are operated.

6. How does the system handle remote and mobile workers? The key here is to find out whether the experience is the same for a telecommuter in a rural area as it is for someone at a head office and how it will handle people on the road.

7. If I underestimate my requirements and need a major upgrade or my company grows, what are the additional costs for upgrading? There isn’t too much you can do here — miscalculating requirements is going to be a problem no matter what.

8. How do you guarantee your quality of service? Quality of service is a big differentiator among providers. What you want to know here is, if you have issues with quality, how you’ll get support, who you should contact and how fast fixes will happen. When there is a complex problem and your network equipment supplier, your broadband supplier and your service provider are all pointing fingers at each other, you want a provider that will step up to solve the problem.

9. What about emergency services — do you provide full 911 or E911 services? Will dispatchers know my location automatically — and how about remote workers? This is a flat-out requirement that many VoIP providers don’t like to talk about. If they don’t have a solution right now, they ought to have one in the pipeline. A simple solution albeit less eloquent, here is to use designate any remaining land lines (such as fax lines) for 911 calls.

10. How do I know you are going to be around in two years, let alone three? This is a more difficult question to answer. Communications and VoIP is an industry of consolidation and aggressive competition. Find out if your provider is stable and make sure your contract is binding even if your provider gets acquired. Ideally, you want the new provider to take up your contract with no change, while giving you the option of moving on without penalty if you don’t like the new arrangement.

Have additional questions? We can help. The principals at TelUS and Razorpoint have years of VoIP implementation experience and can assist you in saving your company implementation cost for your planned Hosted VoIP service. Give us a call anytime at (812)618-0962 and let us assist.

Joe Buck, N.C.E.



1. limewire - April 30, 2010

wow cool stuff bro.

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