Hosted PBX solutions are set to gain ground this year. A recent Sand Hill article notes that these systems have a “buyer power” of 4.1 out of 5, making them favourable investments for companies of any size. However, small businesses especially stand to benefit from the adoption of hosted PBX or VoIP PBX options, in large measure because these solutions provide the flexibility and quality of in-house PBX systems without the cost of maintaining or upgrading infrastructure. Of course, not all hosted providers are created equal; here five key considerations before making any PBX investments:
Is your network ready to handle a hosted PBX solution? Before signing any service level agreements (SLAs) or setting up new telecommunications infrastructure, take a hard look at your network configuration and performance. Since hosted providers use off-site servers and resources to deliver VoIP services, it’s often tempting to ascribe any technical difficulties to supplier failure. Though if your “last mile” isn’t up to snuff or your network is needlessly bogged down by legacy infrastructure, even the best PBX provider won’t be able to offer quality service. Always look inside first.
Think Beyond Bandwidth
As noted by Simple Solutions Computing, it’s also important to think beyond bandwidth. This covers both the bandwidth available from your Internet service provider (ISP) and the “pipeline” offered by a PBX provider. For small businesses hoping to compete on a global scale by offering not just voice but multimedia content and real-time conferencing, it’s critical to ensure that both download and upload speeds are enough to handle the load of your new PBX system and that your provider is similarly equipped. Too slow or too small and you end up with sound “jitter”, delays and even dropped calls.
SIP or PSTN
While there’s nothing wrong with using a hosted VoIP solution which connects to a public switched telephone network (PSTN) for your hosted PBX system, many small businesses now opt for session initiation protocol (SIP) trunking instead, which allows them to easily communicate with mobile and fixed telephone subscribers worldwide. Moving away from traditional telephone lines enables a company to operate entirely online and without the need to convert data across multiple formats in a single call. The migration process from PSTN to SIP can be time consuming, however, so Tech Target recommends finding a stable provider that also owns last mile technology and offers redundant trunks in the event of failure.
Go Feature Rich
For most small businesses, high-quality calls aren’t enough on their own. In effect, quality of service (QoS) should be the basic expectation for any VoIP provider; it’s also important to search solutions that offer things like built-in video support, real-time conferencing and the ability to add new numbers or extensions on the fly. In addition, you should be able to scale up on demand and reduce service as required.
The Price Isn’t Always Right
Finally, small businesses need to look past the price tag. This is difficult, especially for companies with only a few IT staffers or even part-time support, but opting for the lowest priced option may cost more long term. Instead, take a hard look at what each price point delivers: Often, low-cost providers take limited responsibility for service delivery, leaving you on the hook if any issues arise.
Want to find the best hosted PBX for your small business? First, look at your own network performance and bandwidth needs. Next, consider the value of SIP, going feature rich and opting to pay a little more for better service over the long term.