Should I go VoIP? From the BCMLA article written by Camille Charron
Is your old Nortel system giving you grief? Are your telephones 15+ years old? Then it’s time to upgrade. Although no one ever wants to do so, it is always easier upgrading a telephone system when it’s on your terms rather than after it has crashed. And if it does crash, depending on the size and complexity of the telephone system, it could also take up to 2-5 business days to get a new one installed and programmed.
Picking the right replacement telephone system that suits your needs is not difficult. But before you decide on anything, here are a few things to consider.
Dial tone provider – Telco (Telephone Company)
Find out who provides you your dial tone. In order to get a system quote, you inevitably will be asked what type of telephone lines you are using (analog, PRI, SIP)? If you are not sure, most “Interconnect” companies will be more than happy to help you audit your telephone bill (“Interconnect” refers to the company who will connect your telephone system to the dial tone provided by the Telco). Afterwards, you might be shocked to find out how much you are paying and hopefully you won’t find out that you are locked in to a never ending expensive contract. If needed, also ask your Interconnect if they can help you get you a better monthly rate. The potential savings will certainly help offset the cost of a new telephone system and perhaps a year-end bonus!
Get a quote
The next thing to do is to call around for a quote. Interconnects, and now some I.T. companies, are happy to do so at no cost. Good ones will speak to you at your technology level and not theirs. Before purchasing a telephone system, you will also want to ask them questions such as - What will you charge me to talk to you over the telephone in the future? Can you provide me references? Do you have online support, and what will you charge me to access it? What will you charge me for remote access to make changes to our system? Do you have to buy a maintenance contract? What areas do you service? If I need to make changes, can I do it myself or do you have to do it for me? Is the system expandable?
Beware of some I.T. companies that consider phones a side business and who may not give you the support you need.
Response time is a critical issue. After getting a quote, consider calling them to gauge their response time. Interconnect companies also come in many sizes. Big is not always best. There are lots of excellent small Interconnect companies who can provide you with excellent personal service, and most likely respond to inquiries much faster than the big ones.
Should I go to VoIP is a big question these days. VoIP sets are based on the internet. The “PBX” is located somewhere on the planet and is completely reliant on the internet. If the internet goes down, so do your telephones. If the server crashes, so do your telephones. In the end, you get what you pay for. The reliability of inexpensive offering’s are “iffy” at best. The high end products work well, but are expensive over time. VoIP systems will work well if you have the internet bandwidth to support them; however, if the internet is slow, or if there is a lot of traffic going down your “pipe”, you will get choppy calls, dropped calls, and occasional echo. As well, your telephone numbers no longer belong to you. They now belongs to a third party. If you are not happy with their VoIP service, it can be a pain regaining ownership of your telephone number.
My advice, there is no need to rush to VoIP. I personally don’t feel it is 100% reliable just yet. My preference is still the standard digital (PBX) telephone system that is located on your premise, and is connected to the telephone lines provided to you by a Telco. You own it, take care of it, expand it, program it. They are extremely dependable, easy to program and typically last 15+ years.
It is also worth considering the math. On average, you have to consider the cost of purchasing a telephone system and the monthly Telco charge versus the monthly VoIP cost.
When being offered a telephone system, investigate the brand name. Have you ever heard of it? If the Interconnect goes out of business next year, will there be anyone else out there to support it? Beware of certain brands. Nortel is out of business, Avaya has filed for bankruptcy protection, and Cisco discontinued their small business line of products. Also ask if the manufacturer requires an ongoing yearly license.
Standard features to look for in a new system.
1. Voicemail, voicemail to email (Unified Messaging) and auto attendant
2. Lots of buttons on the telephone (memorizing codes to use features is a pain; so is scrolling through menus)
3. Direct lines (requires PRI or SIP lines)
4. A busy lamp field for the receptionist so she can see who is on the phone or not
5. Call forwarding to your cell or an outside number (requires PRI or SIP lines)
6. Remote access to the system to make changes for you
Although I haven’t covered all aspects to finding another phone system, this information will certainly get you on your way. Please feel free to call me anytime if you have any questions. If you’re not looking for a telephone system, but are curious about your phone bill, I am happy to help at no charge as well (I love saving people money). If I can’t help you, I will certainly find you the right person that will.
Camille Charron has been in the telephone industry for the last 35 years. It was the summer job he fell in love with and never left. Camille began his career at Bell Canada in Windsor, Ontario and worked there for 15 years. After meeting his future wife, Camille moved to her hometown of Vancouver and started Clearlines Telephone.