Top questions to ask when choosing the right hosted VOIP provider for your business

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1 Top questions to ask when choosing the right hosted VOIP provider for your business

2 Contents Contents Introduction...3 What phones and system technology is being used? Is it obsolete?... 4 What is in place for disaster recovery?... 4 On what type of connection is the service run? Public or Private?... 4 What is the escalation procedure in case of problems?... 5 Is Service Level Agreement (SLA) provided? Can you receive credits if services/guarantees are not provided?... 5 Are references available?... 6 Is the company economically sound?... 6 Additional decision-making tool:...7 Comparative Service Table... 7 Points Allocation... 7 Example... 7 Costs...8 Cost and Feature Comparison Table... 8 Final decision-making...9 A little bit about Epik... 9 Contents 2

3 Introduction Introduction VOIP s popularity is increasing across North America and all over the world. While it may seem like a new technology to many, it has actually been in existence for quite sometime and has matured over the years. VOIP has become a cost-effective alternative to traditional analog phone systems, and will no doubt overtake traditional phones in all workplaces in the coming years. The entrance of many new providers is natural in a hot new market. While the competition brings cost benefits to the end buyer, many factors must be considered to enable you to meet your needs, improve your business communications, and get the most from your investment. Selecting a hosted VOIP provider can be a daunting task for many managers and decision-makers. Asking the right questions early in the process can ensure the company selected will provide the best results. When choosing a telecom company it s important to be aware of all the variables that could determine the quality or efficiency of the service that best suits your needs. The following list of questions is designed to help you know what to focus on when choosing a voice solution provider. Top Questions 3

4 Top Questions What phones and system technology is being used? Is it obsolete? An important point to consider is what phone hardware and system technology the hosted VOIP provider is using. Some may be easier and less costly to maintain than others. Some providers allow companies to keep their existing VOIP handsets depending on the make and model, and just upgrade the back-end. Buying hardware for generic or older systems may be less costly initially, but the phone sets, network system parts and expansions themselves will grow in cost as they become scarcer. In most cases, it is better in the long term to invest in technology that is proven to be superior and resilient, such as the line of products from Cisco. The best providers are known to use the same line of equipment from end to end so that in case of a problem, a single point of failure is easily discovered and then corrected immediately. What is in place for disaster recovery? Many companies require the correct facilities to stay resilient and operational during times of crisis. A good, but unfortunate example, is the hurricane that devastated the East coast in October 2012 and rendered many companies helpless. If your company primarily deals with national or international customers, it can be vital to stay connected via accessible phone lines and consistent access to the company s main network. Some hosted voice providers give you the benefits of built-in disaster recovery to allow access to work phone calls, voic s and remotely. This allows your company to conduct business with reliability and consistency - a competitive edge necessary for the success of many companies. On what type of connection is the service run? Public or Private? There are providers who primarily use public high speed internet to connect to the telephone network. This can be a concern as the upload and download speeds vary which can result in dropped calls, jitter, and poor voice quality. Also, the public internet is unregulated and shared by other users within the area making it difficult for voice packets to efficiently reach their destination. To ensure excellent quality and reliability, a private, dedicated and bi-directional data connection, that is monitored and backed by a Service Level Guarantee, would be the best option. The necessary bandwidth would depend on the size of the organization and how many concurrent calls are required. Top Questions 4

5 Problems and SLA What is the escalation procedure in case of problems? When facing a problem it is vital to have responsive technical support at any given time. Is there a specific person on the technical side who will help your company, or will you have to call and wait through a long line of redirections and button input questions to get help? When you face a hardware issue will your provider respond with aid, or a special third party needed for repairs? The best providers should have customer service level objectives that mandate a live answer within a specific period of time. They should also guarantee a specific response time, and a repair time, and if possible they should even provide contact information for key stakeholders within the organization for maximum assurance of accountability, uptime and reliability. Is Service Level Agreement (SLA) provided? Can you receive credits if services/guarantees are not provided? The Service Level Agreement or SLA is the promise behind the provider s advertised service; it dictates what level of internet and phone services the customer can reliably expect. The SLA should guarantee a high quality level of the services themselves, for instance call clarity, internet bandwidth and speed. The agreement also describes the process of troubleshooting and the escalation process if any major problems arise. The SLA should include some form of compensation if the provider fails to meet expectations. A reliable provider will have a fast response time and will take responsibility for any service errors. SLA s can be used to determine the provider s level of confidence in their services- if they believe in their ability to provide then their compensation will be flexible and accommodating if there s ever unexpected failure. The SLA is a vital factor when considering a provider; it can be used to truly determine the integrity of a company. Top Questions 5

6 REFERENCES & Reputation Are references available? It s important to check references diligently in order to know the company s service history. Also, is it possible for you to speak directly with their existing clients? The best way to know exactly what you re getting into is by talking to someone who already has the services you are interested in. Is the company economically sound? Make sure you do a company background check. Is the company new to the business, or well established in the industry? Most companies will not divulge this information to you directly. Do some research on the web and you will find answers to these critical questions. A good hosted VOIP provider will be financially healthy, experienced in technology, well established and well managed. Top Questions 6

7 Decision Making Tools Additional decision-making tool: Use the table provided below to compare VOIP providers in order to help you make the right decision for your business. Add points as per guidance for additional clarity. Comparative Service Table Provider 1 Provider 2 Provider 3 Details Points Points Points Internet Connection Built in Disaster Recovery Service Level Agreement Guaranteed Response Time Escalation Contact Company History References Total Points Allocation Internet Connection Private: 20 points Public: 10 points Service Level Agreement Provided: 20 points Not Provided: 0 points Escalation Contact Available: 10 Not Available: 0 points Built-in Disaster Recovery Yes: 20 points No: 0 points Guaranteed Response Time 60 seconds: 10 points over 60 seconds: 5 points Company History Established: 10 Not established: 0 points References Available: 10 Not Available: 0 points Example Provider 1 Details XYZ Inc. Points Internet Connection Private 20 Built in Disaster Recovery Yes 20 Service Level Agreement Yes 20 Guaranteed Response Time 60 seconds 10 Escalation Contact Yes 10 Company History Established 10 References Yes 10 Total 100 Tools 7

8 Costs Costs Cost is just one component when choosing a hosted VOIP service provider for your business. The hosted VOIP solution often requires less upfront capital and services can be set to fit the exact needs of the business. You will find slightly different plans, options and features offered by various VOIP providers, so it s important to learn all you can about the providers and their plans. Use the table provided to compare costs and features provided by the top 3 companies you finally decide to choose from: Cost and Feature Comparison Table Features Provider 1 Provider 2 Provider 3 Upfront costs Ongoing costs Tools 8

9 Final decision making Final decision-making In most cases, each question on this list will lead to additional questions that may require further exploration in order for the decision-making process to take place. The answers to these questions will give you the information necessary for determining the best overall solution for your company s telephony requirements. If you are in a business that relies heavily on effective communication for its success, it may be worthwhile to consult an expert to seek advice. A little bit about Epik Epik Networks is the industry leader in advanced data and communication services, offering turnkey solutions for almost a decade. Through centralized Broadsoft softswitches and high-speed fiber-optic connections, Epik Networks provides companies of all sizes with highly customized telecommunications solutions that are both affordable and completely reliable. We take care of everything from the hardware and software, to ongoing maintenance. You will never worry about your voice services again. In addition to all the equipment, Epik Networks offers one easy-to-understand bill. Let us show you why over 8000 users have made the choice to use Epik Networks as their service provider. Feel free to call us at Epik sales consultants are standing by to help guide you to make the best possible decisions for all your telecommunication needs. epiknetworks.com Epik Networks Inc. Head Office 80 Bloor St West, Suite 503 Toronto, Ontario, M5S 2V1 Toll Free: Phone: Fax: Conclusion 9

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