WHITE PAPER. Telephone Systems 10 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Phone System

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1 WHITE PAPER Telephone Systems 10 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Phone System

2 On a daily basis we have conversations with IT professionals, business owners, and senior management teams in which they express frustration in past decisions, the uncertainty of anticipating future needs, and the ongoing cost of maintenance and manpower that is spent on their phone system. Through those conversations we have identifi ed the key questions to ask before investing in a phone system. This exercise will help you determine your needs and, thereby, make more effective investment decisions. Consider these ten questions before investing in a phone system 1. What start-up costs are there beyond set-up and equipment fees? Hidden Costs: Many companies make a purchase decision based solely on the quote that they receive, but often these don t include hidden costs that could add thousands of dollars over the length of a contract. Find out exactly what you will need in order to use the service, including: phones servers switches interface cards power adaptors voice or IP access connection If you re considering future add-ons (such as a Call Centre, Unifi ed Communications, etc.) that aren t in the quote today, we recommend you ask for pricing that includes hardware, software, installation/setup fees, and additional maintenance required. Key considerations: What is expected of your team to install and set-up the new phone system? Will the provider also be your single point of contact for the access portion or will you have to source and pay for that separately? 2 PRIMUS BUSINESS SERVICES 10 QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE BUYING A PHONE SYSTEM

3 2. What is the maintenance cost of the post-contract term? Maintenance Costs: These costs are generally outlined clearly in the quote or contract for a phone system and many providers bundle them in with monthly lease rates. What is rarely made clear is the cost of maintenance after the initial three, fi ve, or ten year term when failure rates begin to dramatically rise. In addition, future software upgrades are often only provided for customers who have up-to-date, valid maintenance agreements. In the initial term, the maintenance costs are usually palatable, however, we frequently hear from prospective clients who have older phone systems requiring upgrades and new maintenance agreements that can be more costly than the price of the initial phone system. Key considerations: Interconnects or Resellers of PBX equipment make little to no margin on the sale of the PBX itself, they rely on the on-going maintenance revenue. 3. Will you be able to send and receive faxes? Faxes: Faxing isn t new technology by any means, but one of the biggest challenges with a VoIP phone system is the handling of fax calls and with every PBX going full VoIP this is going to be an increasing challenge. Many companies will state that they support fax calling, but when you fi nally start using it you may discover it s not what you expected. Fax on VoIP requires T.38 support, not only on the phone system, but throughout your VoIP provider s network in order to make and receive fax calls. Without it, you may only send or receive partial faxes or have frequent failures. It s important to ask if you can plug your fax machine directly into your phone system or if you will require additional equipment. If you discover a traditional phone line needs to be installed to send and receive faxes, you should ask if that is something your provider can supply. Key considerations: Your offi ce fax volume will determine the solution to meet your faxing needs. High speed fax machines used in industries like legal may not work over T.38 and, therefore, it is recommended to use analog lines. Understanding mission critical components to your business will help make the decision easy. Understanding mission critical components to your business will help make your phone system investment decision easy 4. Is your access dedicated and private? Dedicated Access: Older PBX systems were connected with a cluster of local lines, or a PRI, and chances are you have a sales person pitching that option because it s familiar and the incumbent service providers have a lot of copper in the ground they want to make money on. Any business considering investing in a new phone system should consider VoIP. It offers superior call quality and a variety of options so you can customize your service. However, to use VoIP, you need a data connection for SIP calls and access to the PSTN can present a challenge. Any provider can sell you PSTN access, but you put your business at serious risk if your access is not dedicated and private. A dedicated circuit eliminates any possibility of data traffi c interfering with your communications because someone is uploading a large fi le or watching a YouTube video. Making the dedicated circuit private, ensures that only the voice packets will be allowed to travel to the service provider and avoid the internet completely using a PVLAN. Key considerations: Competent service providers can provide larger pipes, like fi bre, and parse out dedicated and private bandwidth, ensuring you have a backup circuit for failover. Ensure the equipment that you will receive can handle such functions. The best solutions will offer this as a pre-packaged confi guration with a dedicated support model to ensure this stays in an up and current state. 3 PRIMUS BUSINESS SERVICES 10 QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE BUYING A PHONE SYSTEM

4 5. How do mobile or telecommuters connect to the system? Mobile Access: Communications decisions are often made based on the needs of the head offi ce, leaving mobile workers and telecommuters to fi gure out workaround solutions in order to stay connected. This typically leads to higher costs for long distance, poor voice calling quality, and worker frustration. A great mobile access option is to upgrade to a SIP environment and connect multiple locations. To do this, however, requires a large and powerful phone system capable of supporting a SIP environment as well as the resources for the cost of a hosting facility. Before buying a phone system, it is important to understand how it will handle mobile and telecommuter workers. Finding out how to connect employees on the road is a vital part of the modern business world. Key considerations: Is your staff prepared to do their own troubleshooting remotely? How will you handle 911 for the remote workers and avoid liability in the case of an accident or death? Consider all the aspects involved with supporting remote workers and make sure you receive clarifi cation and examples of a deployment before choosing your phone system. 6. Can the phone system scale as your company grows? Scalability: Phone systems, especially a premise-based PBX system, are designed with a very specifi c limit to the number of users it can support. To make the right purchase decision, IT professionals have to buy for today, but should plan for tomorrow. If you purchase a phone system designed to support only the number of employees you have now, what will you do if your business grows and 30 more people need to be connected? If your estimates are incorrect, it could cost your company tens of thousands of dollars to replace your whole phone system with a larger one. On the other hand, if you choose a system that supports 100 users when you only have an offi ce of 60, you have paid up front for 40 extra users that you may never need. Using the same logic, you could pay up front for data access, like a PRI with a 23-call path limit, or a data access limit that caps out at 10, 20 or 30 concurrent calls. Once you have hit those limits, people start getting busy signals and you risk losing business. The only solution would be to add another PRI or access circuit. Key consideration: Hosted phone systems can usually scale on a 1:1 ratio and to an indefi nite number of users. However, not all hosted providers offer access circuits that can also scale to add more capacity without ripping out old circuits and installing new ones. Verify the options, cost, and process for scaling up and down, including adding new locations. 4 PRIMUS BUSINESS SERVICES 10 QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE BUYING A PHONE SYSTEM

5 7. How do they guarantee Quality of Service (QoS)? Guaranteed Service: Quality of Service varies dramatically from provider to provider. VoIP has many advantages over traditional voice phone lines like wideband audio G.722, but without a QoS guarantee, you ll fi nd many disadvantages and a lot of frustration. Some providers offer to monitor their equipment, but if your voice packets travel over the open internet, you may be exposing your business to a loss in quality, as well as, potential security risks. Without QoS guarantees you could experience jitter, latency, and interference that could impact your revenue and customer experience. Further to this, what happens if there is an outage in the IP connection or to the power in your offi ce? Take the time to understand how QoS will be handled, who will be responsible, and what the implications will be to your contract terms if you re not satisfi ed with the Quality of Service. Key considerations: Any reputable service provider will stand by their service with an SLA that protects your business when quality problems arise. If someone is offering guaranteed 100% uptime, be wary. No one can guarantee 100% uptime. POTS or legacy analog technology offers % uptime whereas most Tier 1 VoIP providers will offer 99.99% uptime. Uptime is at the platform/network level; check the MTTR for your circuits as that is outside of any uptime calculation. 8. Can the phone system support a Call Centre? Without Quality of Service guarantees you could experience jitter, latency, and interference that could impact your revenue and customer experience Call Centres: Phone systems, especially premise-based systems, scale up/down in quality and functionality. The cheaper the phone system the greater its limitations and one of the most obvious is the inability to add Call Centre functionality for even the smallest of queues with an agent interface to manage calls. For those systems that can support Call Centre, it usually means a hardware and software add-on, installation charges, licensing fees, and ongoing maintenance above and beyond the initial system quote. In most cases it costs tens of thousands of dollars in capital and project costs to get a call centre up and running. This is dramatically changing with hosted Call Centres. Through cloud-based technology they offer limitless scalability and signifi cantly reduces the barrier to entry with little to no up-front cost. Key considerations: In a premise-based PBX, the Call Centre call is held within the PBX so you need a call path for every call waiting in queue. For example, if 10 agents are busy on calls with 10 more calls waiting in queue, 20 call paths are required almost a full PRI. In comparison, hosted Call Centres calls waiting in queue are held in the cloud and only require a call path for when an agent is ready meaning when 10 agents are on calls and there are 10 more calls waiting in queue, only 10 call paths are required. 9. What happens if the supplier is no longer around in a couple of years? Provider Stability: Like any new technology industry there are many options when choosing service providers for your hardware, software, and access. The phone system market is no different. What happens if your service provider or PBX reseller/maintenance provider suddenly is out of business or is bought by a competitor? Many service contracts don t guarantee that the terms of your contract will be honoured in a buyout or bankruptcy situation. With so many smaller companies offering advanced services, you have a lot to choose from, but they may not be around as your business grows. Privately held companies don t need to expose their fi nances so you have no idea about their fi nancial stability. Key considerations: Find out if your service provider is a private company and read every word of the contract (including the legal copy) to see how your business is protected. 5 PRIMUS BUSINESS SERVICES 10 QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE BUYING A PHONE SYSTEM

6 10. What is the service provider s network topology? Network Toplogy: It is important to note where the physical servers belonging to your service provider are located and how it could impact your privacy policy guidelines. If your calls are traveling across the Canada/US border because your service provider s servers are in a US data centre, your business is now subject to US privacy rules, such as CALEA. Most Canadian companies require their data to stay within Canadian borders, your voice traffi c should as well. Understanding your service providers network topology, high level at the very least, is critical. Where are the servers located? Is there geo-redundancy with automatic failover features to keep your calls in an up state? If the provider is claiming a dedicated private connection, ask about where the connection terminates back to. These are the questions you need to ask a potential service provider so you know what you re buying. Key considerations: Intellectual Property (IP) is often a closely guarded secret by service providers so you may not get all of the details, but you should get the answers to the above questions to gain a better understanding of how phone systems and services work before making any purchasing decisions. Being well informed will lead to more confi dent decision making. Make sure that the company you choose is positioned to invest in future development Primus Hosted PBX Fully Managed Hosted Phone System Your Complete Business Communications Solution Primus Business Services Hosted PBX is a fully-managed, enterprise-grade phone system that utilizes cloud-based technology, to connect your business without the costs of a traditional phone system. Our Hosted PBX is a secure, high quality system with built-in redundancies that continuously optimizes to offer you best-in-class performance, superior voice quality and guaranteed quality of service anywhere in Canada. We invite you to rate our services against other service providers. Below you will fi nd a quick overview chart to help you to compare Primus service offering against the competition. Whether you are a small business of fi ve or a corporation of 5,000 with offi ces across Canada Primus can keep you connected. OTHER #1 OTHER #2 No Maintenance Fees No Hardware or Software to Purchase Scalable: 5 to 5,000 Users Guaranteed Quality of Service Fully Managed Solution Dedicated Private Network Built-in Failover & Disaster Recovery Connects Multiple Offi ces & Mobile Users Superior HD Voice Quality 50 Advanced Calling Features Hosted Call Centre 6 PRIMUS BUSINESS SERVICES 10 QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE BUYING A PHONE SYSTEM

7 About Primus Business Services Primus Business Services is a national leader in advanced communication solutions, providing a comprehensive portfolio of voice and access solutions. Over 60,000 Canadian Businesses rely on Primus industry leading service and support commitment that delivers reliability, security and compliance. When you partner with Primus, you get access to a dedicated Account Representative and team of experts who will collaborate with you on your business requirements. Learn more at primusbusiness.ca For more information: Primus Business Services (Primus Telecommunications Canada Inc.) primusbusiness.ca PRIMUS BUSINESS SERVICES 10 QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE BUYING A PHONE SYSTEM

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