Voice over IP (VoIP) systems are enjoying strong growth worldwide. According to Global News Wire, the VoIP services market should reach $140 billion in the next five years as companies look for ways to enhance their telephony without being tied to expensive, on-site hardware. For many businesses, the sharp rise in VoIP prompts a drive to adopt before their plain old telephone service (POTS) solution is completely outdated. The problem? Jumping in isn’t always the best solution; here are four tips to help newcomers to VoIP evaluate their options before investing.

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On or Off?

The first decision you need to make when considering a VoIP system is location: do you prefer to host the VoIP servers on site or off-premises? Both are viable options. According to Beta News, if you have no existing communications hardware, it’s often more cost-effective to choose hosted options, since setup time is minimal and there’s no new CapEx. Staying on-premises, meanwhile, gives you more granular control over security and access. When it comes to choosing a provider, research its strengths and pick one that matches your needs. For example, some VoIP partners have vetted a host of cloud providers to ensure top-quality service.

Check Your Bandwidth

Early-stage complaints about VoIP included sound “jitter,” lag and dropped calls. Cloud-based technologies have largely eliminated these issues, but you may still experience problems if your Internet connection doesn’t have enough bandwidth. Here, even the best provider won’t be able to meet expectations since too-small bandwidth pipelines will naturally limit call quality. Before investing in any VoIP solution, make sure you’ve got room to spare on your existing Internet connection — if not, consider adding a second, dedicated line. As noted by It Pro, it’s also important to make sure your router is up to the task of prioritising voice traffic and implementing quality of service (QoS) rules for VoIP data packets.

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Consider Costs

The cost of a hosted VoIP system is much like that of a cloud computing service — without any hardware purchasing or upgrades, you’re looking at pure OpEx spend. While it’s tempting to cut costs wherever possible to limit the long-term impact, when it comes to VoIP, you get what you pay for. In other words, the value of your VoIP solution is defined by its reliability, adaptability and usability; while you can find bargain-bin providers, the type of service they offer will always be commensurate with their price.

Features and Futures

Last but not least, consider what you need right now and what you may require down the line. This means reining in the impulse to spend big on every available VoIP feature and instead dial it back to include features that meet specific business needs. For example, if you’re in the middle of a business expansion, it’s ideal to look for providers that specialise in mobile device support and enhanced video chat to keep staff and stakeholders in the loop. It’s also important to consider the future; does your prospective VoIP provider leave you room to expand — by doubling or tripling your usage if necessary — and does it support the emerging infrastructure for unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS)? If not, you may want to keep looking.

New to VoIP? Understand your options, know your limits, find your price point and consider your future before picking a provider.