5 tips for buying a small business phone system

Ready to cut the cord? It’s not just for those folks who use Netflix and smartphones. As cheap DSL becomes pretty much the standard, we’re seeing more and more small businesses moving from their traditional small business phone system and turning to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

The benefits of VoIP can sound almost enchanting: It’s more flexible, contains more features, and best of all, VoIP will save you a lot of money over a landline. Is VoIP a good idea for your small business? Here’s a checklist to help make the decision easier.

Can your network handle it? Begin with thinking about the elements where you have some control: your network. Is it stable? Even the simplest of networks can have issues that could affect call quality. Do you have only one DHCP server/router? Are your switches in good shape? Also make sure that your computers are efficiently running.  

It’s about more than just bandwidth. One of the first items we address with our small business clients is how much bandwidth your Internet connection provides. It needs to be sufficient for both the download and the upload, as well as a consistent connection. Your bandwidth should be able to comfortably transmit both a volume of simultaneous calls while still managing each computer’s needs. For example, three simultaneous calls at 90kbps each would require 270kbps (both upload and download); add to it however many PCs you have surfing the web, sending email or whatever other bandwidth-heavy applications you might be running. 

Also make sure you have a high quality internet connection via your service provider. Packet loss, jitter or too much latency will make your conversations will degrade quickly.  

It’s all about connection. It’s not likely that your VoIP provider’s connection switch won’t cross several networks. In fact, fewer hops and decreased latency to their switch could be an advantage. Perform a trace route and ping to their SIP server to gauge how many other routers you’ll pass, measuring the time it takes to get there. To make sure you’re getting an accurate reading, try testing at different times during the day, on several different days of the week.

Beware the lowest price. Just as with any other project, a bid that is way under everyone else should be a red flag. Cheap should not be the only benefit. Go with a provider who offers a reasonable price that’s on par with the competition (in fact, many savvy entrepreneurs throw out both the highest and the lowest bid). Trust us, you’ll be happy that you did.

Features, service and presentation are key. Each small business is unique, so clearly identify which features are the most important for your success. Although we were taught as kids to never judge a book by its cover, a provider’s website design can actually give you a good idea about their target customer. Does the service provider’s website send a message of quality? If they offer a trial, take full advantage of it, just like you would test drive a car. 

Want to learn more? Contact us, we’re happy to help.