1 Top 10 Things to Consider When Choosing Hosted PBX 2015
2 Your phone is your business! For the majority of businesses today the telephone is still one of the most important modes of communication with customers, suppliers and partners. It s not surprising, then, that Hosted PBX services are growing in popularity. They provide businesses of all sizes with professional-grade phone systems and features that used to be accessible only to large companies. The concept of a Hosted PBX service may still be new to you, and so it s important to know what to look for when selecting a Hosted PBX service provider. This brief guide will help you as you evaluate your options by ensuring that you take into account the most frequently overlooked considerations when choosing a Hosted PBX service. 1. Coverage: Can The Service Provider Service My Area? First step is to find out if the Service Provider can port your business telephone number to their service. If they don t offer service in your area, then you won t be able to use their service. A surprising number of Canadian Hosted PBX service providers are able to serve only a restricted local area, so this should be one of the first questions to ask. In addition, find out how many cities and which cities the service provider covers. While you may not need service in other areas of the country currently, it may be important in the future so it s best to be with a Service Provider that has a wide coverage area to support expansion plans. Versature currently covers more than 950 Canadian cities, from Victoria, BC to Halifax, NS. With Versature, you can keep your existing phone number(s) or request new numbers in these locations. Versature is also able to procure phone numbers in the USA and overseas. For more information, please see Business Line Local Number Portability in Canada.
3 2. Lines: Will You Have To Pay Per Line? It s important to identify if the Hosted PBX service provider is still charging for lines in the traditional sense. This practice dates back to the old Telco days when the phone company would count on you putting in more phone lines than necessary, taking advantage of a company s fear that a prospective customer might receive a busy signal. Of course, this was a great way to increase the monthly spend. That s an outdated practice which has been rendered obsolete with newer VoIP technologies. That being said, some Service Providers still use this as a revenue opportunity even though there are no physical lines any more, and no need to charge per line. Why guess how many lines you will need on your busiest day when pioneering Hosted PBX providers will automatically adjust the number of lines for you? If the service provider is still charging per line, it s probably a good idea to keep looking. Versature charges per extension (or in other words, per telephone), not per line. Managing the number of lines is part of the service that Versature provides for our customers, included in the monthly fee at no additional charge. For more information, please see Never, Ever Pay For Phone Lines Again.
4 3. Features: Does It Have What My Business Needs? Before deciding on a Hosted PBX service, start by identifying your needs. This task can be made simpler by thinking about two categories of features: Business Features Think about what you hope a new business phone system will help you accomplish in terms of your business branding and operations. For example, you might want to have Multiple Phone Numbers for marketing purposes. Quite possibly you need Statistics/Analytics of your call data and Call Recording to ensure customer service and to provide opportunities for training. Some important business features that may be missing include Call Analytics, Multi-Party Conferencing and/or a Customer Portal Application to control and modify your system in a self-service way. Call Control Features Consider the types of functionality that the most frequent phone users in your business will require. Features like Caller ID, Call Forwarding and the ability to put callers on Hold and Transfer them to other employees are pretty-much standard these days. But what about big-business features such as Call Queues, Ring Groups, or Apps for your iphone, Blackberry or Android? These advanced features are sometimes missing from Hosted PBX service providers offerings.
5 Handy Checklists The following tables list the features in each of these categories offered by Versature. You can use this list to identify the must-have features of your new business phone system by putting a checkmark beside the ones you need and/or want. Business Features Call Conferencing Call Recording Call Statistics / Analytics Detailed Billing / Call Logs Fax - to - and Fax - Over - IP Options Hunt Group Keep Existing Phone Number(s), Choose Your Area Code for a new numbers, Toll - Free Number Mobile / Remote Worker Access Music / Messages on Hold No Per - Line Charges, one phone number can take multiple calls at once Online Dashboard to control / modify service, monitor call activity Paging Reliable - Hosted in a Class A data center CRM Integration (ie. Salesforce) Unique Employee Extensions Video Phone Calls Voic for each employee Voic - to - ; Unified Messaging for s, Faxes, and Voic s Voic - to - Text (Voic Transcription)
6 Call Control Features Advanced Auto Attendant(s) Answering Rules, Time - of - Day Routing / Night Treatment Personal Greetings Call Queue(s) Call Restriction (ie. Limit Long Distance) Dashboard to control Call Routing (even remotely) Dial-By-Name Directory Direct Inward Dialing (direct numbers) Ring Group(s) Seven-Digit Dialing Simultaneous Ring to a remote phone or cell (also called Twinning) Smartphone App Visual Call Waiting + Standard Stuff like: Caller ID, Call Forwarding, Three-Way Calling, Call Hold, Call Return, Do Not Disturb, Find Me / Follow Me, Call Park / Retrieve, Blind / Attended Call Transfer, Missed Call Pickup, Hands-Free Calling (speakerphone), Call Logs (dialed, received, missed, etc..) 4. Contract: Will My Business be Locked In? Always ask about the Hosted PBX provider s contract term. Some providers are like traditional telecom companies that require long-term contracts. This may be too rigid for a business that changes frequently. Even if a service provider uses language that avoids the term contract, you should request answers to these questions: Will I have to re-negotiate every time my business expands? If my business contracts, will I be locked into the original deal until it expires?
7 What happens as my business changes for example, what if I open a new office location or start having my employees work from home? If I want to take my business elsewhere, are there any cancellation fees and is it possible to transfer my business numbers to another provider? In month-to-month terms, there is no long-term contract to re-negotiate each instance. New extensions, mailboxes, employees, and features can be added or removed upon request. With no contracts to hold you, Versature employees like to say that they earn your business each and every month. In a contract situation, either party may send to the other party a written notice at least 30 days in advance of the expiration of the Term that it does not intend to renew an Order Form. As a result, that Order Form will expire and Services provided under it will be terminated at the end of the Term. Detailed call logs make it easy to assess whether your chosen Versature service package is sufficient and valuable. Lastly, if you do decide to move to another provider, that is your right and Versature won t block your number transfer in any way. 5. Guarantees: Is There a Money-Back Guarantee? Find out how the service provider handles cancelled services. If, after a few weeks, you determine that the service is not suitable for your business, will the service provider refund your investment in the services and business phones that you purchased?
8 Versature offers a simple 30-day unconditional money-back guarantee on everything: services and hardware. If, within 30 days, you decide that the Versature Hosted PBX is not right for your business, we ll cancel your invoice and you won t owe a penny. For more information, see Thirty Day Satisfaction Guarantee. 6. Support: What Support is Included? Ask all the service providers that you are considering about the level of support they provide to their customers, and at what cost. One thing that we have learned over the years is that Hosted PBX companies need to have a first class support team, as changes to the customer s IT network (even seemingly unrelated changes) can have undesired consequences. The speed with which providers can respond, identify and resolve these technical issues is what makes or breaks the customer relationship in most cases. All Versature customers have access to our Canadian-based help desk that is staffed by expert technicians between the hours of 8:00am 7:00pm EST Monday to Friday. Any phone user can simply pick up their Versature phone and dial 611 to receive technical assistance, and support provided for the phone system is included in your monthly extension charge. For more information, please see An Introduction To Versature s Support Team.
9 7. Customers: How Many Are There? Ask about the service provider s customer base is it substantial? You should also be able to speak to some of the service provider s current customers ask if there is a reference customer with a business similar to yours that you can speak to about the service. Versature has more than 5,000 business subscribers in Canada. Versature s annual customer growth rate holds steady at around 25%. For more information, please see Customer Stories. 8. Quality of Service: How will it be Addressed? Quality of Service (QoS) refers to the ability to provide a different priority to certain Internet-based applications, users, or types of data in order to assure a desired level of performance. You will want to ensure that your Hosted PBX service provider has a QoS strategy in place. Versature has a tiered QoS strategy based on each customer s need and budget. Our strategy is as follows: We first ensure that your Internet connection is sufficient to support VoIP traffic. If it is not, we will address the problem with your Internet service provider (ISP) or will recommend a new ISP. We will normally recommend an affordable VoIP-aware network router that is capable of prioritizing your VoIP traffic, replacing your current router. For mid-size businesses, a second, dedicated Internet connection may be recommended for the VoIP traffic. For larger businesses or in mission-critical cases, we may recommend implementation of a private connection between your business and the Versature data centre.
10 9. Service Level Agreement: Is One Offered? A service level agreement (SLA) is a promise by the Hosted PBX provider to: A. Provide a certain quality of service and performance; and, B. Agree to specific penalties if the SLA is not upheld. Ask whether your prospective Hosted PBX provider has an SLA, and if so, ask to see the SLA commitments in writing. The SLA should be easy to read and understand. Versature s SLA is available on our website. In it, penalties are outlined if performance issues arise with our hosted service. 10. Standards: Is it Standards-Based? A Hosted PBX can be either standards-based or not (known as proprietary). You may think that the concept of standards-based technology is of importance only to the people who build the technology, but it also has implications for you as a business owner or operator. The largest expense you will incur when selecting a Hosted PBX provider will be the cost of the business phones. If you choose a provider that offers proprietary VoIP phones (such as Nortel, Avaya, NEC, Mitel, etc.), you will only be able to use those phones with that provider or another provider who supports that brand. Proprietary Hosted PBX services limit your options and lock you in. Look for a service provider that offers standards-based VoIP phones. Specifically, look for a provider that offers SIP-based (SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol) hardware. Some standards-based phone brands are:
11 Versature recommends and sells Polycom VoIP telephones, which are SIP-based and standards compliant. Numerous providers and IP-PBX systems support Polycom phones, so if you had to make a switch your phone investment would be protected. For more information, please see Why We Recommend Polycom Phones. About Versature Versature makes business phone systems more awesome! Based in Ottawa, Versature offers a Hosted PBX service that provides innovative business communications solutions to small and medium-sized companies. In business since 2003, Versature has been growing by at least 25% year-over-year, currently serving over 5000 subscribers from across the country. Businesses as small as 3 people and as large as 1000 staff members are using Versature to save money on their telecommunications services, increase their capabilities and future-proof their business, all while retaining the flexibility they need to grow. Please visit Versature s website for more information about the company or connect with us on social media. F T L W
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