Friday, September 18, 2009

VoIP For Small Business

There are three main types of VoIP....

* IP-PBX
* Hosted
* and Converged

When looking at a provider your organization would first want to distinguish if you want a capital expense on the balance sheet or a operating expense. If your organization has the capital then a buying a phone system outright will be optimal. If your organization wants to put this on the balance sheet as an operating expense then look at hosted and "leased" IP-PBX's.

Hosted is in theory a good solution for a start up (no capital expenditure). An established organization should go with the IP-PBX format either leased or buy outright. By leasing it provides for lowering capital expenditures. Plus it allows for the same management tools and software upgrades. You can also buy outright at the end of the contract. Hosted solutions tend to be a "sticky" product. This means that once you sign the hosted solution you are bound to the service provider. I have ran into many disgruntled users of a hosted solution because when they go to switch providers they need to buy a new phone system anyways! The hosted solution usually only works on the service providers network.

Make sure you check into this!

Hosted PBX solutions are very popular for small businesses that can't justify the upfront expense of traditional systems. Also, businesses with multiple sites enjoy Hosted solutions as they can make free calls from site to site and can have extension dialing regardless of location.

Packet8 is the largest Hosted PBX provider with over 12,000 companies using their service.

Another critical question when looking at service providers is will they be around 6 months from now. Many of them are in the red and are going out of business. Packet8 on the other hand, is the first pure VoIP company to be profitable, they are traded on NASDAQ [EGHT] and they have been around for over 20 years.

Premise based is almost always going to have a lower total cost of ownership once you start looking at things long term. (3-5+ years) You will eventually own the PBX and at that point the costs are minimal, you're just paying for the basic dialtone services which are always less than the hosted feature set. Premised based PBXs are also the most flexible and offer the best fail over capabilities and redundancy options.

Hosted comes in two flavors; public network IP (i.e. Packet 8, etc) and private network IP. Private network IP is when your ISP offers an IP based telephony product. When a ISP provides telephony service your traffic hits their switch without ever leaving their network. This typically works well. Public network IP uses the public Internet as a transport. This is a roll of the dice. Some have good luck, others don't.

If your company is in a position to purchase/finance hardware, run the numbers- the ROI should be clear. Also keep in mind that premise based system are carrier agnostic in every way. If in 3 years you find a better deal on services, transitioning to a new carrier is easy. Not so with hosted.

To see what options may be available to you ... I suggest using the free "search and compare" Best Rate Calculator tool available here: VoIP Services Comparison

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