Many businesses have abandoned conventional telecom services altogether, in favor of software that runs on remote service and multi-purpose phones that connect to the Web to provide a variety of telecom services. The reason for this desktop-to-cloud migration boils down to cost-effectiveness. Any business that needs more than a bare handful of phone lines can save a considerable amount of money by putting their services on the cloud. However, this move must be made with some caution. A wise business owner will ask several questions about their business, their technology needs, and potential vendors before signing a contract.
A Brief Introduction to Cloud-Based Telecom Services
The days of talking or texting over copper wires connected to regular telephones have almost ended. While most businesses still have phones plugged into the walls, most of them connect to a cloud-based telecommunications system. Hosting phone services and voicemail storage and other things on cloud-based servers and drives is increasingly a normal thing. If your business has multiple phone lines and associated communication tools, like instant messaging, it may be time to look at a telecom system that puts much of your data and communication software on cloud servers. As with any significant business decision, some research is required; the following sets of questions will help ensure a choice that balances cost against performance.
Questions About Your Business
Spend a little time thinking about your business needs and growth plans. These things factor into what kind of cloud-hosting arrangement you need and what features to pay for.
- How much bandwidth are we paying for now?
- How much bandwidth will the system require?
- Will their system support our mission critical software and hardware?
- How much can we afford to spend on hosting, calling, and phones themselves?
- How easy will it be/how much will it cost to expand the system as we grow?
Business owners are not immune to the urge to buy technology with advanced features the business would get little or no value out of. That is why these questions are important; almost as important as questions about the potential vendor and their services.
Questions About Their Customer Service
At numerous points in your relationship with any telecom vendor, you will need technical help with something. Make sure the details of their support service are acceptable.
- What are their support hours?
- What response time can they guarantee?
- In the event of some disaster, what is their failover and recover time?
- Do they offer a trial period?
Any disruption of your communication capabilities during working hours is a huge problem, so fast response to a problem is necessary. Some VoIP providers offer a risk-free trial period with their hardware and/or cloud solutions. This is a great way to test out a new telecom system to be sure it fits with your business needs.
Questions About Technology
You might not think of your business as operating in a technological ecosystem. But, most any business relies on a network of hardware, software, and communication lines, including wi-fi and telephone lines. The cloud-based telecom provider you select needs to support your existing software and hardware. Here are some questions to ask about the technology a vendor offers:
- How many calls can the system handle at once?
- Does the technology support or interfere with other important hardware and software?
- Does it have key features you need, like Microsoft Outlook integration or a softphone and instant messaging?
That question should lead to specific questions relevant to your business model. Will their system integrate smoothly with your customer relationship management software? Will your stamp machine and networked printer work? Do a quick accounting of your software and systems, then make sure the vendor in question supports them or offers an acceptable cloud-based replacement.
Questions About Their Operations
Carry out some due diligence on a prospective service provider. Along with obvious things like their standing with the Better Business Bureau and online reviews, you want to ask some questions about how they operate:
- Where are the servers located?
- What is their backup and recovery protocol?
- Do they have insurance?
- If your company handles sensitive health or financial data, are they able to comply with relevant federal regulations?
In today’s legal environment, many business owners must consider things like HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliance and data privacy rules. While those issues do not really affect telephone calls, a cloud-based VoIP system transmits and stores data that we normally associate more with computers and software. Any customer health and financial information transmitted over those systems must be handled according to current regulations and international standards. Make sure your VoIP provider can offer compliant services.
Move to the Cloud with Care
Moving to a cloud-based system that combines phone, chat, email, and messaging can be a smart move in terms of business efficiency. However, a business owner contemplating the move needs to ask some questions about their company, the vendors they find, and the technology those companies offer. If a cloud-based VoIP system looks like the right solution for your business, contact the DirecTech team to set up a consultation.