Choosing the correct Hosted PBX can get tricky.
You want the best, affordable phone system for your business. But the terms Hosted PBX, VoIP, and The Cloud can be confusing for the average business, especially a startup. Chances are, you won’t have the time to educate yourself sufficiently on these terms. However, at the same time, you also want to ensure that you only subscribe to an equipment arrangement and service that best fits your needs and goals.
The following 12 questions will assist you in understanding the range of Hosted PBX providers. After you review these questions, ask yourself if you have more questions to ask, because it’s important that you cover everything. We are specialists at getting businesses like yours up and running with improved phone systems without upfront costs and a monthly spend increase. Rest assured that we’ll give you answers that prove we’re the best service provider for your business.
1. What are the terms of your contract termination policy?
Contract termination issues are essential, but nobody wants to think about them when the service and technical problems are solved. These concerns cause not only stress but contribute to lack of time. However, when an original service provider doesn’t produce what’s expected, the lack of adequate service can cause many future problems for companies.
The purpose of a contract is to serve both parties involved. Part of that is being aware of any terms that come with the deal, such as free benefits. These free benefits can include things like new equipment, on-site training, network analysis, or installation. Some excellent service providers need to make a significant investment to provide you with high-quality service. In return, you have to agree to a specific number of months of service or pay an early termination fee.
Avoid long-term commitments to a service provider if you receive nothing in exchange. Dishonest service providers will sometimes hide fees or offer you no upfront benefits, causing many problems.
In addition, it can get even worse. They could hold your call records or telephone numbers hostage until you pay the termination fees they demand. A provider that offers a “no commitment” contract is not one you should trust or expect much from.
2. Are the features I need provided by the service?
Prior to searching for a Hosted PBX service provider, make a list of the most important features that you’ll need. Take your time with this step, and work on it with a team if you can. What are two important considerations? Do you plan to have employees working from home, or, do you plan to add more locations? Furthermore, do you think you’ll need custom features, such as a Call Center?
Making a concrete list of your goals and needs ahead of time will help you get the right service package for your business right from the start. In addition, doing so helps to eliminate unexpected charges in case you ever need to expand or make changes to your hosted PBX services. Be wary of “in development” or “coming soon” essential features. Why? Because new features are often delivered on the timetable of the provider, not yours. So don’t commit to something now at a lower price when there are features that won’t be available until sometime in the future.
3. What additional equipment will I need?
Often Hosted PBX is presented as an Over-The-Top service where your existing internet connection and Local Area Network (LAN) are used. However, if the extra load placed on these elements by a Hosted PBX is insufficient, additional equipment may be needed. This may include an IP connection and/or network upgrades to ensure your business receives the quality service it needs. In many cases, you’ll have to buy a new router and/or a modem to get optimal quality-of-service.
Make sure to ask the service provider if they offer a quality of service or QoS router as part of the package. There are two purposes for QoS routers. From the work of a service provider, support that is remote can be professionally provided along with an allowance data traffic that is voice over. This can be bumped up on an IP connection that is connected to traffic shaping to ensure the quality of a call is at its best.
In addition, you may need to improve your Ethernet switch, especially if you need to utilize power-over-Ethernet or POE in the areas of your business where power outlets are limited.
4. What if I change my number of lines?
There are many benefits to using a Hosted PBX service. One of them is the ability to either add or decrease the number of lines or users as needed. Make sure to ask if your service provider allows for the necessary flexibility for anything that you want to add, and if they offer that, make sure there are no hidden fees. Always remember that with a provider, you make a term commitment. Therefore, there may be a minimum number of lines or users that you’ll need to maintain every month to keep the contract moving.
Nevertheless, you should, on-demand, have the ability to add lines over the minimum commitment you have. In addition, you should also be able to scale back on demand. This becomes particularly important for a seasonal business. You should be able to do this through an online portal or ticketing system. You should be able to do this without having to call support for changes. Remember, the goal of this kind of service is not only for you to understand what you’re getting but for you to be able to maneuver what you are offered easily.
5. Do you offer support, and is it 24/7 support? Where is your support centre located?
You will find that all service providers claim that their services are so reliable and secure that there is no need for training or support once the initial setup is done. The reality is that when you’re changing requirements or feature requests, adding ISP, power outages or new employees, or any other network issues, immediate support is often needed.
Be sure to ask the service provider what kind of support and at what level will be provided to you with their service. Is their over the phone or live support technicians available? Or, is support offered only through a chat procedure or a ticketing procedure? There needs to be user-friendly instructions from service providers that make the procedures clear that need to be followed to get an issue handled quickly. After all, having unresolved issues regarding your service can be very frustrating. Determine what the procedure is for escalating issues and getting them fixed if standard support is not sufficient.
If a service reliability level guarantee is needed, ask the service provider for a Service Level Agreement (SLA). What is an SLA? It requires the carrier to stick to a specific performance level. This would include predefined consequences (typically involving a particular number of account credits) when a lack of performance exists by the provider.
If these matters are of significant to you, determine where the service provider’s support services and technicians are based, whether foreign or domestic. Be sure your service contract includes support from people you feel comfortable with and that are easily accessible. If your service provider is located in a foreign location that is not convenient to you, for example, that may not be ideal for the needs of your business.
6. What if any charges exist to Port? Can I keep my current phone number?
These are crucial questions. A local footprint in your given area is often not in existence by providers that are second or third tier. You may be asked to pass your numbers on to an alternative number in their control or ask you to get a new number rather than your numbers being ported to their service directly. This is not an ideal situation. It complicates troubleshooting and service management quality. It also creates an additional point of failure.
A service provider needs to have a broad number type of supportable footprint. This can be their own network or one created by becoming partners with service providers that are Tier 1.
Bottom line: reputable service providers should be able to support your local telephone numbers.
To get a phone number ported, the procedure should be simple. It should merely require you to submit a Letter of Agency or LOA form and also a copy of your bill that gives permission to the service provider to have control over your number. There should be no service interruptions or downtime with the porting procedure that can cause problems for the functioning of your buisness.
When you agree to a contract term, porting fees can often be reduced or waived. This can happen primarily when agreeing to the terms of a contract. When porting your numbers, be sure to review the terms and conditions of the service provider carefully. Be aware that some service providers could attempt to keep your numbers as a way to stop you from going with a different provider. This becomes very important when new numbers are issued to you by the provider from their pool of numbers. When your contract has ended, you should be able to work with a different service, and you should be able to take your phone numbers with you with no problems on your end.
7. Do any startup costs exists besides equipment and setup fees?
Some service providers try to sneak in additional and hidden equipment charges. In addition, their fee may include their service. Plus, your internet connection or LAN may require significant upgrades to handle the extra burden of utilizing a Hosted PBX service.
Before putting you on a service, a reputable service provider will encourage a network analysis/site survey before adding you. There are many purposes to a site survey. One is that it helps to decide the readiness of your network for being able to support the hosted PBX. It also determines the available bandwidth along with LAN issues and other issues. Network planning can also be aided. When you have an excellent site survey, it accounts for all of the missing cable runs, phone numbers, conferencing or fax lines, hunt groups, administrative extensions, call queues, etc. The template and inventory the service provider needs to develop can use this information for the Hosted PBX service. Once this pre-work is done, the implementation of the new service will be a smooth one for you and your business.
In addition, you’ll need to pay for a site survey done, mainly if there are travel costs for the service provider. In many cases, the cost of site surveys will be included in the service provider’s monthly recurring charges. Negotiating a refund on the total cost can also be done if an on-site installation of new equipment is being done by the service provider.
8. What are the daily usage costs not covered by my service plan? What are the international call rates?
Providers often add additional monthly charges of connection fees, service fees, and per-minute charges.
Generally, inbound toll-free service and international calling are based on a per minute basis. Be aware of the rate decks shown by your provider. Also, be sure to carefully review your bill to make sure charges are properly applied and you are not overcharged. Be aware that 911, 411, and multi-party conferencing, for example, may have a per minute charge or per occurrence charges occurring.
9. For analog-style phones, do I have to have additionals or that remote or branch offices have already installed?
When a hosted system using VoIP is connected to legacy telephone systems and equipment, they can be supported in many ways. You need to ensure that the service provider has experience with legacy systems. If they do not, you may have to replace particular components unexpectedly to continue to use them. So keep that in mind.
When you’re calling from your legacy equipment, and if you want to continue to use legacy analog equipment with your new hosted PBX service, determine what specific features are supported. Sure, you can probably place a call or receive a call. But what about other services? These may be accessible with star codes only – when connected to an old phone.
Another factor you need to ensure is that your service provider completely understands the total scope of your project with regard to legacy-hosted integration. To connect the new and legacy services in the cloud, these need to be used – Analog Telephone Adapters or ATAs, IP Gateways, and other specialized equipment. Be sure to keep track of all the analog mechanisms you use, that’s because they relate precisely to the choice of IP/ATA Gateway device your provider uses to enable the service. These can all impact the terms of your monthly cost. Will there be a large number of devices used? Then they should be accounted for in a detailed on-site survey conducted by the service provider.
10. How does the system take care of mobile and remote workers?
There are work-from-home, mobile and remote employees. Supporting them adequately is often a key when involving phone system upgrades. These kinds of workers must be able to access all of the features of your new system, and that includes when they are out of the office.
Some service providers offer softphones or mobile apps. Expensive handsets can be eliminated as a result for remote or mobile workers. Speak with your provider to determine what options are right for your business.
11. Does the service provider offer N 911? Will workers know my locations, and what about my workers who work remotely?
Delivery a N 911 service is complicated when Hosted PBX is used. This becomes even more complicated when work-from-home, mobile employees, and remote workers are added.
A professional and expert hosting service can explain to you how these important services are delivered. Only the most important service providers make an investment in a dependable program for 911 and handling of emergency calls using PSAP or what is known as public safety answering points involved into the 911 system.
Always choose a provider that allows for the fly procedure of updating your 911 registered locations. This is because the services will be effective when emergency personnel get dispatched to the correct physical locations.
12. How can I be confident the service you provide will be here in the future?
Mergers and acquisitions within the telecommunications industry are constantly in the news. Also in the news are many accounts of low-quality service providers getting their companies started cheaply, followed by going out of business quickly. You need to make sure those possibilities are covered in the service agreement. You don’t want your phone numbers held hostage if your service is interrupted.
Always make sure the provider has made an investment in a quality network and they have done business with other infrastructure providers of high-quality.