A Beginner’s Guide to Hosted VoIP
August 15, 2018
Until recently, businesses with phone systems needed a physical box in their office that would manage their calls and how their phones worked. Now, phone systems are all built into a cloud system called hosted VoIP. In fact, the cloud is so powerful that you could host up to 5,000 businesses that all work on the same platform on one server! Let’s take an in depth look at hosted VoIP, including its benefits and whether or not it’s the right choice for your organization.
The Basics of VoIP
If you’ve ever used Skype to chat with friends, family, and colleagues, then you’ve already used a VoIP service. VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, and it’s a fairly new technology that improves the way people and businesses communicate. In short, a VoIP service allows you to make calls over the Internet (rather than through your landline) using either a computer or a phone.
VoIP converts your voice to digital signals that are then transmitted over data networks. As such, VoIP services rely on the same protocols that the Internet uses. In this case, a protocol is a set of rules that allow for orderly communication—examples of protocols are SIP (session initiation protocol), UDP (user datagram protocol), and TCP (transmission control protocol).
The Internet uses packets of data to send information back and forth to other computers. For VoIP, we use the same packets transmitted back and forth to make a phone calls. It takes thousands of packets transmitted per second to complete a call in VoIP.
Features and Benefits of VoIP
VoIP offers a great deal of flexibility and a wide range of features, including:
- Call management with call parking, voicemail to email, and ring groups.
- Call centers with agents, pause features, and queues.
- Call conferencing with conference bridges and three-way conference calling.
- Music on hold with commercials or music.
- Virtual auto attendants with multiple top-level and sub-level attendants.
- Origination and termination solutions with E911 support, toll-free numbers, and domestic and international termination.
- Reports about call traffic, call volume, activity, and accounting.
One of the biggest advantages of hosted VoIP is disaster recovery. With older systems, if you had a problem with your PBX, it could take days or weeks to get repaired. Take, for instance, Hurricane Katrina: thousands of businesses were left without power for weeks—a huge revenue loss. Having a hosted VoIP service would mean that you could relocate your phones to a temporary office or even have your calls forwarded to a cell phone until you could restore power to your original location.
Of course, there are some drawbacks to VoIP phones. To use hosted VoIP, users need an Internet connection. And if the Internet goes down, employees can’t use their VoIP phones. Similarly, IP phones share bandwidth with computers. That means using too much bandwidth on one computer can impact the quality of service of another, unless a Quality of Service device is put in place.
Is VoIP Right for My Business?
Choosing the right phone system for your organization is a big decision, since you’re most likely going to keep it for over three years. Here are a few questions you should consider when searching for a VoIP provider:
1. Am I getting a fair price when compared to other companies? There are many VoIP providers out there with varying prices and services. It’s worth exploring your options to make sure you get the best value for your money.
2. How is the provider’s customer service? We suggest calling and seeing how they treat you—the last thing you want is to be routed to a department and then put on hold for five minutes or told to open a ticket and get a response in 24 hours. Customer service should be quick, professional, and resolve your issue quickly.
3. Does the provider understand your technical needs to ensure your environment will work seamlessly when the phones and equipment are installed? Designing a system takes a lot of planning, and you want a company that will guide you through the process—or, if you prefer a hands-off approach, a company that will come in and install everything for you.
4. What kind of support can you expect? Will the company come on site to assist you if a problem arises?
5. Do I have the right architecture in place for hosted VoIP? You will need high bandwidth, data cabling at each phone location, a good router and switch, and other tools in place to ensure you maintain consistent service.
So now that you know what hosted VoIP is and what questions to ask to determine if VoIP is right for your organization, ask yourself this: what should you look for in a trustworthy provider?
First and foremost, we suggest that you check a provider’s references. You should also ask them about their installation process and how they plan on supporting your system so you can see their level of service. You’ll also want to consider if you like them personally. Yes, it may seem like an odd factor, but you’re building a long-term relationship with this company, so you should make sure you have the right partner!
Founded in 2007, Datastream Communications is a hosted VoIP provider that offers complete cloud phone systems and phone numbers to businesses within the Mid-Atlantic region. Datastream Communications covers the entire process from initial consultation to installation and after-purchase services. With an emphasis on customer service and quality, Datastream Communications continually strives to provide the best possible customer experience. Contact us today to learn more about hosted VoIP systems and the flexible services we provide.