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Top 10 questions-hosted pbx

Asking these top 10 VoIP questions first when choosing a hosted PBX provider will guide you to make the best decision.  Effective communication solutions, whether for hosted VoIP or an IP-PBX business phone system, starts with an upfront understanding of the product Planning for small business VoIP is a must.and the knowledge and foresight to ask the right questions before entering into a long term contract.  Using this Top 10 list guide when considering Hosted VoIP, should go a long way towards making your choice a good one.  A little planning will go a long way towards delivering you the correct VoIP business phone system solution.

1)Will I get the features I need?

You should compile a list of the primary features that are absolutely necessary for your business model, size and operation.  Your list should have the most important, "absolutely required" features first, all of which are real deal killers if a particular provider does not offer them.  Then it should have the less important features, which would be considered beneficial, (but not imperative) if they were not included.  These less critical features are the ones that you might actually find could become more important as time goes on, so treat them accordingly; they are not deal killers, but still carry weight.  Then use this list to determine exact pricing, and the pricing changes that might occur if any additional features are added at a later date.  These additional features can be categorized in two types, ones that are optional and available today (pricing known), and ones that may yet be developed (many times touted by the salesperson as coming soon).  Ask if there will be an additional charge, such as a setup or one time fee, in addition to the monthly cost, if a voip phone feature is added at a later date.  How about the ones that might be developed?

2)What equipment will I need?

In addition to IP phones, what other hardware or network infrastructure equipment will be needed.  Depending on the size of your company and the number of phone connections (or seats) required, you may need to add additional bandwidth or a more robust Internet connection.  If you are running certain types of equipment, such as firewalls or routers, will the provider's product be able to operate efficiently through those devices or do they have "known issues" with any of the equipment you already have in place.  These questions should be addressed at the beginning of the process, not after you have installed the system, only to find out that there is a problem 2 months later.  Will any current phones that you might own be able to operate with the system?  What, if any, additional equipment will be required for "good service"?

3)What is the cancellation policy?

Inquire about any potential contract cancellation termination fees; how much are they and how long will you be subject to them.  Find out if there are any circumstances where you can get out of the contract without suffering termination fees.  Are there any additional penalties or costs occurred when canceling and what are the requirements to cancel, both in procedure and also in notice?  If you rent or lease any equipment, you will want to know what the policies are regarding this equipment.  If after the initial contract period you remain a customer, is it then on a month to month basis or will you need to resign a new term?  Do the hosted VoIP provider's cancellation fees still apply after your initial contract has been fulfilled, if you keep service and then cancel later on?

4)What if I change the number of lines?

If the initial amount of lines (seats) increase or decrease at some point in the contract how will that affect that contract term and any termination fees or other cancellation policies?  Some contracts may have a per line cancellation fee, and depending on any changes that may occur at some point will you have to fork over a fee for turning off one line or one seat.  What happens if you add a seat, will that be an easy addition to your extension setup and call treatments?  And if you add another one or two lines 6 months down the road, how will that affect the overall contract for the other lines and the additional lines?  For instance, you purchase 5 lines from a provider and all is OK until you have one less employee after a small downsizing.  To cut costs you decide to cancel one line, maybe a $50./mo. savings.  Then you find out that you need to pay a $100.00 cancel fee plus perhaps a next months service fee, even though you will be keeping the other 4 lines.  Given this scenario, most of the potential cost cutting savings goes away.

5)What support is included?

Good customer support is critical when picking a hosted VoIP provider.Support is certainly one of the big considerations and benefits of a hosted PBX solution, so it comes as no surprise that you will want to know what VoIP support includes and does not include.  Will you get the initial installation and a complete setup of the call treatments, such as an attendant and call forward options that you will need, or are you on your own with over the phone support.  What are the hours that the provider operates tech support (with live people at the other end of the phone) and what are typical hold times to get someone knowledgeable on the phone?  If they have fairly good coverage times, what good is that if they only have two techs and 20 customers waiting to talk to them?  Find out how many customer service people answer the phones and how many techs support customers.  A reasonable ratio will ensure support.  What about hardware purchased, like voip-phones; if there is a problem and something needs replacement do you deal with the provider or the hardware equipment manufacturer?  Good customer service should be one of the main considerations when considering a VoIP provider.  Typically how well a company handles their customers is an indication of how satisfied their customers are. 

6)If I port my business number, when will the billing start?

One major business consideration will be the porting process and the overlap period going from one provider to another.  A typical VoIP port process can in the past has taken two weeks for "normal" numbers (considering that all the correct documentation is supplied right away) and even longer for a toll free number.  But, this is no longer the case.  New FCC mandates are requiring VoIP providers to follow LNP rules. There are still caveats and some providers who take longer than what the FCC is mandating so we suggest to read and familiarize yourself with the latest rules, because in some instances, a port request can be declined and needs to be resubmitted after some issue is corrected in order for that number to port.  These issues may be as simple as getting the port request order to match correctly the exact address and name on the porting number's business account.  Or it may include special features that were attached to a number that will need to be removed before a port can proceed.  The new hosted PBX company will want the process to go smoothly, but they cannot necessarily foresee all the potential issues until the process has been started.  Remember the "port to" company requests the port and the loosing company controls much of the porting process.  So, as a normal business process, you will want to know if will you be billed for the entire number lines ordered, for the period until your numbers are ported, or will you pay for only one for only one of those lines.  And then you might even have "the fell through the cracks" situation, where the process was delayed due to issues on one side or the other and took longer than the longest estimate.  If that is the case, (rare, but it certainly has happened), you might have incurred  a month or more of extra billing plus your existing service which cannot be cancelled until after the port.  But remember, porting rules, LNP rules, have become more stringent (good for the consumer) and VoIP providers, as well as other carriers, such as wireless cell carriers and traditional telecom providers must follow the FCC mandates.  Although there are still complexities and rogue providers who don't want to follow the rules, as consumers become more knowledgeable with the FCC mandates, the porting process will get better and better.


Questions to ask when choosing a hosted VoIP provider.