There are some very good hosted VoIP services for small businesses that rely on an “open Internet” connection; meaning they do not control the total pipe or connection to the switch. The quality of the service to these providers depend on the quality of the customer’s ISP’s Internet service and each network there after, (onwards to the VoIP provider’s switch). This type of service is typical of most residential VoIP services and for the small office/home office some provider’s offer a good quality business VoIP service or hosted VoIP. Picking a good small business VoIP provider among the ones that offer a business product can be made easier if you follow a few guidelines.
1) Make sure your network is in good shape.
Start with things that you have control over; your network, and make sure that it does not have problems. Even simple networks can have problems that will affect the quality of VoIP calls. Make sure that you have only one DHCP server/router, that your switches are in good shape and that your computers are running efficiently. A router with some QOS capabilities can
2) It’s not only bandwidth that’s important.
One of the first items that is addressed when looking at a hosted VoIP business phone service is the amount of bandwidth that your Internet connection has, both on the download and just an importantly on the upload, but its also needs to be a steady connection. It should be enough to comfortable carry the number of simultaneous calls and each computer’s needs. Four simultaneous calls at 90kbps each would be 360kbps (upload and download) and then 4 PCs sending email and using whatever other applications that might be running.
Another important need is the quality of your ISP’s Internet connection. If there is packet loss, jitter or too much latency your calls are going to suffer. And it won’t take much of any one of those problems to degrade your conversations quickly. So, make sure that your Internet connection is good and stable.
3) The connection from you to your provider’s switch.
It’s unlikely that the connection from you to your VoIP provider’s switch won’t cross several networks. The lower the amount of hops and the less latency to the VoIP provider’s switch can be an advantage. Do a trace route and ping to their SIP server to see how many other routers you pass and the time it takes to get there. You may want to do some testing on different days and different times of the day or evening.
4) The lowest price is not the best service.
Just like when getting bids for a project, the one that is way under the others can be a caution flag. Cheap is not always good when it comes to service. Choose a provider that has a price that is reasonable with the competition (middle or upper middle), but not a low cost provider. You’ll be happier in the end.
5) Choose by features, presentation and service.
For a small business phone solution to work for you look at the features that are important for you. When comparing features keep in mind how the information is presented. The look and feel of a provider’s website can actually give a good clue as to the provider’s target customer base. Does their website convey quality? Like a car, a test drive without a lasting commitment is a valuable offer. (And in the case of a good VoIP provider, they’ll probably have an easy and intuitive sign up process. One you can handle without that car salesman.