Introduction to VoIP Business Communications
Migrating your business communications to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) from the legacy Public Switched Telephony Network (PSTN) or PBX is a sound business decision, now that VoIP has achieved acceptance as a mainstream communications service. However, business VoIP solutions come in many varieties, from VoIP call termination service to IP Centrex service. The primary motivation for businesses to migrate their communications network infrastructure to VoIP services comes from the ability to make much less expensive voice calls and faxes. Deployed properly, business VoIP, whether implemented in small, medium, or large organizations, can lead to improved productivity and increases in profitability.
Types of Business VoIP Solutions
One solution for businesses looking to reduce their communications costs is known as Voice over IP Call Termination through which a business could potentially save up to 50% on calls as compared to the PSTN. This service uses the public Internet or privately managed IP network to terminate your business calls instead of the PSTN, thereby realizing substantial savings for you. Another business communications replacement service is known as IP Centrex, or Hosted Centrex service. This can be thought of as a virtual PBX replacement service. The Service Provider you choose provides PBX-like features from their “host” softswitch at their POP over your business’ existing broadband connection. You should determine which type of service best suits your business needs as part of your business VoIP solution evaluation.
Because of the increasing popularity of VoIP to reduce business communications costs, there have been many recent Service Provider entries into the marketplace. With the current proliferation of new providers, they are often newly minted wholesale carrier Service Providers and individual resellers who make very attractive price and quality claims that they cannot meet. This of course will lead to your dissatisfaction with VoIP business service and a negative outcome to your decision to switch. For these reasons, it is best to create a “short list” of well-known, established and reliable VoIP Service Providers. A reliable VoIP Service Provider would be any communications provider who has a solid customer base, seasoned telecom management and engineers, with 2 or more years of reputable service experience.
Evaluation Criteria to Select Your Premier Business VoIP Service Provider
All well-established VoIP carriers in the market will claim to offer the best VoIP business solution. So how do you choose who should be on your “short list” and final choice to implement your VoIP solution? The following criteria should all be considered when selecting the best business VoIP provider:
1. Voice Quality: A premier Service Provider will have multiple POPs (Point of Presence) and softswitches, resulting in minimum latency (aka delay) and allowing for faster connections. Minimizing delay and jitter (the short term instability in the quality of a call) are 2 crucial parameters of providing high quality VoIP voice and fax calls. Another critical parameter that should be used to gauge voice quality is the Service Provider’s MOS (Mean Opinion Score) number. MOS Scoring is a subjective test of a call’s quality originally designed by the Bell Companies to quantify the quality of a voice call, with 1 being unacceptable and 5 being superlative. A typical range for Voice over IP would be from 3.5 to 4.2 using a G.711 Codec. In contrast, a score of 2.8 to 3.2 is typically seen for cell phone calls. For your business VoIP service, you should specify a minimum 4.0 MOS score from your potential provider, with a goal of getting as close to 4.4 (which equates to PSTN “toll quality” network service) as possible. Good voice quality is one crucial factor in your evaluation that separates the average provider from the best.
2. Pricing: One of the most critical areas that probably attracted your business to moving to VoIP service in the first place was to reduce its telecommunications costs. Make sure to thoroughly understand the rate structure of the various providers you have chosen to evaluate. Due to increasing competition in the business VoIP space recently, rate can vary widely. All VoIP networks are not created equally, and a provider’s internal cost structure and profit margin requirements can create a wide range of pricing structures. Also be sure to negotiate discounts based on volume of calling, generally expressed as MOU (Minutes of Use) that you plan to send to the Service Provider.
3. Network Integration: All businesses in operation today have an existing telecom network to meet their various telecommunications needs. Migrating to VoIP service should be a seamless and relatively painless transition for your business. The VoIP Service Provider of your choice should be able to easily integrate your existing service with VoIP so that your network operations are minimally affected during the migration process.
4. Feature Richness: A wonderful aspect of both Voice over IP termination and hosted IP services is the wide variety of value-added features they allow to be offered. Call waiting, call forwarding, 3 way calling, speed calling, pre-established teleconferencing, even video- conferencing (and many others) are are available, usually at little or no cost, which will help achieve your goal of increasing productivity. Choose the provider who offers you the features & services that meet your business needs and will add value to your particular organization.
5. Billing: All premier VoIP Service Providers should offer a real-time billing capability with demonstrable expertise to exert proper control over the VoIP minutes used by their large number of individual customers. CDRs (Call Detail Records) should be available on every single call billed, allowing them to optimize their network and you to ensure the rate structure you signed up for is being charged accurately and consistently.
6. Trial Results: To verify the claims regarding the quality of the network, your service, and user friendliness of features that will ultimately determine your overall service satisfaction, you should always sign up for a live test trial from the VoIP provider being evaluated. The trial should be no less than 48 hours, preferably longer. This will give you a good representation of the services and features being offered. During the trial, be sure to get measures of the ACD (Average Call Duration), ASR (Average Success Ratio), and PDD (Post-Dial Delay) which also can be used to compare different providers’ QoS (Quality of Service).
Ultimately, you should choose the best business VoIP service for you and your organization, based on the evaluation criteria, to attain a high level of satisfaction with your new VoIP business service. In this way, you will achieve the original goals for moving your business communications to VoIP of cost reduction and productivity improvement.