When Should I Consider Voice over IP for My Business?

Several variables affect the decision to migrate to Voice over IP (VoIP). If you think it’s time to update your business phone system, you must carefully plan the right timing and the best type of technology for your application. These five factors will help provide a good start to your planning process:

  1. Age of your existing phone system – Given the rapid pace in which IP technology has evolved, phone systems aren’t expected to last as long. Industry experts estimate today’s phone systems have a useful life of six to eight years before the technology becomes dated. And, some experts recommend you evaluate your phone technology every two to three years.

An obsolete system can place your business at a competitive disadvantage. However, only you can assess whether your existing system is still meeting your requirements. You must balance the functionality you’re missing against the cost of an upgrade.

  1. Current feature set – Does your phone system provide all the features you need to streamline your operation? Are you accessing the latest and greatest productivity enhancers and cost savers such as sophisticated call routing and call forwarding, voicemail to email transcription, conferencing, coaching tools, call reporting, auto attendant, music-on-hold, portal administration and more? Do you have the mobility capability to access your phone system features while you’re away from the office?

If you’ve got few employees, your communication needs may be very basic and you could be meeting your customer needs easily through your existing phone system. In this situation, you probably could wait to upgrade. However, if any of the features you currently can’t access could improve your business, you should conduct the cost-benefit analysis for a VoIP migration.

  1. Size of your business – If you’re a one or two person shop, you probably need basic phone service. But if you have even a few people, you should consider how an upgraded system can improve your productivity. Also, consider geographic locations of employees. If you’re a dispersed group, certain Voice over IP features may benefit your business.

The other thing to consider is not how big your business actually is, but how big you want it to appear to be. If you work out of your home, you may want access to the capabilities a VoIP phone service can provide to even the playing field among you and your larger competitors.

Finally, consider how much you expect your business to grow in the short- and longer-term. Voice over IP technology allows you to easily scale your phone service to meet your current demands. You pay only for what you need today, but have the peace-of-mind knowing you can add extensions quickly and easily whenever you need them.

  1. Mobility of your staff – If you have staff that work from home, meet with customers frequently, or travel across the country or globe regularly, you should consider your communications system and how well it serves your mobile employees and your customers. Access is key with out-of-office personnel.

With hosted Voice over IP systems, you can access your phone’s capabilities from anywhere you have a data connection. As long as you’re connected to a private IP network or the Internet, you can place and receive calls, and perform a variety of phone functions just as if you were in the office.

  1. Disaster recovery – How dependent is your business on continuous phone service? If your company experienced an unplanned power outage from a natural disaster or human-caused event, how long could your business survive? If constant communication with your customers is critical, you need to carefully evaluate your ability to keep your current phone system up and running.

If you don’t have the redundancy and backup capabilities at your facility, you should consider partnering with a hosted VoIP phone service provider. Figuring out the impact of an outage on your business for various lengths of time can help you decide whether you should upgrade to a provider’s solution. Hosted VoIP phone service offers you the ability to work from any location with an Internet connection, should your office location experience an unexpected outage.

By considering these five factors, you’ll be able to focus on whether you should consider a Voice over IP upgrade to your phone system. How old your existing phone system is, what features you currently have access to, how large your business is, how mobile your staff is and how an unplanned outage at your facility would affect your business are critical considerations in upgrade planning.

To learn more about Voice over IP, download FairPoint Communications’ latest white paper titled “The Complete Guide to Hosted VoIP.”

By providing more streamlined, intelligent and cost-efficient solutions, FairPoint Communications helps businesses of any size get the most from their voice applications. FairPoint offers two voice options: Hosted PBX and SIP Trunking. A cloud-based voice service, FairPoint’s Hosted PBX eliminates capital investments in telecommunications equipment. SIP Trunking leverages an organization’s existing on-premises equipment by connecting it to FairPoint’s advanced softswitch network. Both options simplify network requirements, provide access to enhanced features and lower operational costs.

For more information on FairPoint Hosted PBX or SIP Trunking solutions, visit http://business.fairpoint.com/advanced-business-services/voice-services/.

Chris is the former Vice President of Product Management at FairPoint Communications, a leading provider of advanced communications technology in northern New England and 14 other states across the U.S.