Archive for April, 2010


How To Find A Business VoIP Provider

How to make a vendor short list.

For small business owners, making the switch from conventional telephony to a VoIP solution is a sound business decision; especially since IP telephony is set to become the most utilized form of business communications by 2013. While the primary driving factor for businesses when it comes to deploying VoIP is the substantial ability to reduce communications costs, there are many forms of business oriented VoIP systems and it is important for businesses to correctly identify the solution that best suits their needs. If correctly facilitate VoIP provides all enterprises with increased proficiency and productivity.

Voice over IP Call Termination is one of the most common variations of VoIP telephony; if correctly deployed it will allow smaller enterprises to eliminate nearly 80% of their regular monthly telephony expenses. Like most VoIP platforms, Voice over IP Call Termination harnesses the Internet to terminate business calls instead of operating over the packet switch telephone network. The second most referred to form of VoIP is known as Hosted Centrex, this is thought to be a matured replacement for a PBX system. While operating on a Hosted Centrex platform, the VoIP service provider delivers PBX features from their softswitch to the business’ current broadband Internet connection. It is essential that businesses evaluate which VoIP solution will adequately meet business demands prior to the implementation phase.

Due to the growing demand for IP telephony services the list of available VoIP service providers has grown drastically over recent years. Because of the influx in service providers it is essential that small business owners carefully research the vendors that make their short list. There are many inexperienced and unreliable providers on the market making claims of high Quality of Service and below industry pricing; claims they cannot substantiate. Selecting the wrong service provider will only result in inadequate VoIP service. An established and knowledgeable host will be able to prove a strong client base, trained management and technicians and will have been in the business of providing corporate VoIP solutions for more than two years.

Since every VoIP provider and reseller on the market will claim to provide the best VoIP service, how does a smaller enterprise create their vendor short list? VoIP vendor selection can be broken down into 6 key steps; Voice Quality, Pricing, Network Integration, Features and Tools, Billing and Test Results.

1. Voice Quality
VoIP service providers experienced in providing high quality business communications solutions will maintain a multitude of POPs, or Point of Presence, and softswitches. High quality voice calls made over the Internet depend on both to minimize latency and maximize connectivity. Small business owners should become accustomed with the providers Mean Opinion Score (MOS) number to determine overall voice quality. While a MOS of 3.5 is the industry average, business owners should specify a minimum of 4.0 and work towards a score of 4.4 as this would represent the same voice quality as that of a conventional telephone network.

2. Pricing
The potential to save money is the primary motivator for most businesses to migrate to a VoIP solution, and most providers claim to have the best pricing structure. While performing vendor evaluations it is important the businesses clearly understand the rate structures of the providers under their radar. Given the highly competitive nature of VoIP services, rates will differ greatly. A VoIP solution provider’s rate structure and profit margins can result in a lengthy list of pricing schemes. A savvy business professional should be able to procure rates based on their average calling volume.

3. Network Integration
It is almost impossible to locate a business that does not have a existing telecom network, for this purpose migration to VoIP should be relatively effortless. It is important to carefully evaluate each vendor to ensure that they will be able to effortlessly integrate the existing network with VoIP; lowering the risk of network interruptions during the initial implantation phase.

4. Features and Tools
Some of the most advantageous benefits of both VoIP and hosted VoIP service are the multitude of rich and business enhancing features that can be provided; Call waiting, conference calling, automated attendant, hunt groups, address books and much more. Most VoIP solutions providers will present their business clients with all of these features and more at no additional charge. When making a short list, cross reference the list of providers with the services and features that the business requires to maintain a competitive advantage.

5. Billing
A professional VoIP solutions provider will offer real-time billing and the expertise necessary to maintain proper control over the VoIP minutes utilized by their consumers. It is essential for businesses to receive a Call Digital Record with each billing statement.

6. Test Results
Any VoIP provider worthy of topping the short list will provide a trial service. This allows business owners to evaluate and verify voice quality, VoIP service and the ability of the service provider to meet the needs of the business. Business owners should adopt the practice of always signing up for a live test trial, which lasts for no less than 3 business days. The end result will provide a clear forecast of the services and features provided. It is recommended that businesses request Average Call Duration metrics, Average Success ratio and Post-Dial Delay results as these will provide insight into the Quality of Service offered by each VoIP solutions provider.

By carefully evaluating each vendor, with the services and features offered and how they can add value to the business, small business owners should be able to clearly determine which type of service will best meet their needs and the service provider most capable of provider that service.


Business VoIP to Experience 37% Growth By 2013

A recent study released by In-Stat suggests that nearly 79% of all businesses will deploy VoIP by 2013; a 37% increase over the 42% of businesses having migrated to VoIP by the end of 2009. What is the cause of such a rapid influx in corporate VoIP migration? According to experts in the IP telecommunications field the forecasted growth has more to do with declining business expansion and the potential to boost efficiencies and cost savings in current business locations.
The economical ebbs and flows of the last half decade have resulted in fewer businesses opening new locations and instead investing more time and resources into bolstering the efficiencies of their primary enterprises. In focusing their attention on existing resources US business owners have found that in order to maximize their investment, while protecting their current capital, they must examine ways to limit their budget – without sacrificing essentials. VoIP telephony allows businesses to realize the potentials of a fully functioning corporate telecommunications system without over extending their capital spending.
In response to the increased use of VoIP in US business, In-Stat reported the following in their market research study, “US Business VoIP Overview: Optimization Trumps Expansion”.

• 33% of businesses that have already deployed VoIP solutions report that recent economic conditions have caused them to slow additional deployment plans, compared to 30% reporting no change in plans.
• Broadband IP Telephony revenues continue to grow and will more than double by 2013, compared to 2008. This growth will be fueled by single-user applications among increasingly distributed and mobile workforces.
Given that more businesses are foregoing opening new locations, and instead either contracting remote workers or enhancing the capabilities of their main business locations, VoIP provides a logical solution in the desire to minimize spending while maximizing efficiency. Since Broadband use in businesses has more than doubled in recent years it only makes sense that businesses would gravitate towards an Internet based telecommunications system.

Recommendations:
• Prior to deploying a VoIP solution it is recommended that businesses first perform a complete network analysis to ensure that the existing network is able to support voice and data traffic, as well as a rapid increase of bandwidth.
• Invest in a high-quality network router, anti-virus and firewall applications to enhance network security.

Key Considerations:
• 72% of all US businesses will deploy a VoIP solution by 2013.
• VoIP allows employees and mobile workers from around the world instant access to corporate communications systems from any location that maintains Broadband Internet connectivity.
• IP telephony is provides even smaller organizations with the same telecommunications features as Fortune 500 enterprises, for a low monthly flat-rate.
• Internet based communications systems greatly improve efficiency and overall collaboration.

The Bottom Line:
Migrating to a VoIP telecommunications platform allows business to realize the full potential of a corporate communications system while minimizing their on-going capital expenditures. IP telephony is the most established method of bolstering business efficiency and increasing both productivity and collaboration.


Interoperability Testing Now Prevents Limited Hardware Choices Later

Interoperability, as defined by Federal Standard 1037C, refers to “the ability of systems, units, or forces to provide services to and accept services from other systems, units or forces and to use the services so exchanged to enable them to operate effectively together.” It further goes on to outline “the condition achieved among communications-electronics systems or items of communications-electronics equipment when information or services can be exchanged directly and satisfactorily between them and/or their users.” For businesses electing to deploy a hosted VoIP solution, interoperability should be one of their most critical concerns. Failing to perform crucial interoperability testing can result in incompatibility between the hosted service and telecommunications devices such as SIP based phones, Session Border Controllers and other IP telephony infrastructure.

The Internet Engineering Task Force, www.ietf.org, recommends that every hosted VoIP solutions provider maintain strict compliance to the IETF RFC 3161 specification for the Session Initiation Protocol as it outlines the most basic requirements for ensuring that all hosted IP solutions maintain the functionality for interoperability with additional SIP based equipment.

In the business world there is a tendency to contract multiple vendors to support an assortment of network components; especially for organizations with geographically dispersed locations. For this purpose, it is essential to guarantee that each of the network fundamentals is wholly interoperable with each other. From an economical view point, replacing a network component that is not compatible with products from other vendors is not a plausible option.

Hosted business VoIP solutions providers that guarantee a high Quality of Service (QoS), such as award-winning solutions provider Nextiva, Inc. will require business administrators to input the correct interoperability configuration in order to route external calls correctly. Failing to enter the correct configuration can result in calls being made outside of the IP network being dropped or misrouted; this is likely caused from calls being routed through PSTN switches, instead of over the broadband connection.
Polycom, a leading manufacturer or IP telecommunications equipment has been rigorously testing their products to ensure interoperability with third-party vendors since early 2006. As a reputed business VoIP solutions provider Nextiva offers a full range of Polycom products ranking high on the interoperability scale.

The best method of mitigating the risks associated with incompatible elements is to first perform a complete and thorough interoperability test and to re-test on a periodic basis, or every time a new vendor or product is introduced into the network.

Interoperability issues are not a new concern, in fact, they have been presenting challenges to vendors and service providers since the inception of PBX. It is highly recommended that businesses select only hosted VoIP providers with demonstrated interoperability with the most commonly used vendors and carriers.


Nextiva Reviews – Aastra 57i VoIP Phone

Astra 57i Review
Aastra 57i Phone Review (Image Source: voip-warehouse.com.au)

Multiple line desk IP phone by Aastra

Small businesses seeking a professional, executive class IP phone will greatly enjoy the Astra 57i. Not only does it maintain a sleek and modern professional appearance but it also comes equipped several business enhancing features; uniquely beneficial for busy executives or employees who spend most of their work days on the telephone.
As one of the most favorable asterisk IP phones on the market, the Astra 57i allows users to take full advantage of XML based programs effortlessly, thanks in part to the 144 x 128 LCD screen. Some of the greatest advantages of the 57i are the 6 dynamic context-sensitive soft keys, 18 dedicated hard key and 12 programmable keys. It is also capable of supporting expansions enabling the possibility of more than 60 one touch keys.
Not only does the 57i contain a built in full-duplex speaker phone, it is also wideband audio compatible and supports 4 distinct lines. Making the Astra 57i VoIP phone the ideal solution for busy call centers, professionals required to perform hard telephone based work and executives.

Aastra 57i Features:

• Full duplex speaker phone
• 4 lines
• Excellent for busy call centers
• 144 x 128 graphical LCD display
• 6 context-sensitive soft keys
• XML web application compatible
• Expansion capability
• 18 dedicated hard keys
• 12 programmable keys


Nextiva Reviews – Grandstream GXP2020

Grandstream GXP2020

Grandstream GXP2020 VoIP Phone (Image Source: Telephonyware.com)

An affordable business-class VoIP phone

Smaller enterprises and busy call centers alike while find value in the GXP2020. Not only does it come equipped with 6-line functionality, it also provides state-of-the-art call quality and voice clarity. The multi lingual support and added security protection make it the ideal IP phone for businesses operating on an international front.

The GXP2020 offers a complete and comprehensive array of business essential features including 7 programmable hard keys and 4 XML programmable context-sensitive soft keys designed to bolster both productivity and efficiency. The GXP2020 is a highly advanced IP phone, compatible with all of the industry leading SIP platforms; including those offered with a VoIP solution.

Much like the entire IP phone line, the GXP2020 comes equipped with call display, call blocking and call waiting capabilities. It is ideal for budding businesses as it affords for a multitude of line expansions.

Grandstream GXP2020 Features:

• SIP support
• Dual switched 10/100Mbps Ethernet ports with integrated PoE
• Support NAT traversal
• Backlit 320 x 160 hi-resolution graphical LCD
• 6 line with individual SIP profiles
• 7 programmable hard keys
• 4 XML programmable context-sensitive soft keys
• Multi-line support for 13 call appearance lines
• Scalable to 112 lines through expansion key modules
• Caller ID, Call block etc.


Nextiva Reviews – Polycom IP SoundStation 4000

Polycom IP Soundstation 4000 Review

Polycom SoundStation 4000 Conference IP Phone

A small business VoIP conference room phone

The Polycom IP 4000 boasts improved audio quality and enhanced SIP voice conferencing. It is exclusively engineered for small to midsized conference rooms and provides unprecedented room coverage. Attendees can calmly speak from up to 10 feet away from the microphone and still be heard clearly from the exterior of the room. Thanks to the grated mic system echo and background noise are almost entirely eliminated.
The Polycom IP 4000 comes with easy to use features that users of the Soundstation family are familiar with. The backlit LCD provides easy access to business essential features such as call transfer, redial, hold and of course call conference. Since the Polycom IP 4000 is fully compatible in a VoIP environment it provides the ideal solution to small businesses deploying IP telephony. Like all of Polycom’s products the IP 4000 comes equipped with Polycom’s famous Acoustic Clarity Technology; enabling businesses to bolster productivity while experiencing a high definition quality conversation.

Polycom SoundStation 4000 Features:

• Full-duplex conference phone – natural two-way conversation
• SIP support
• Expandable for larger room coverage
• Gated microphones
• Backlit, graphical LCD display
• Easily field upgradeable
• Supports multiple calls
• 3 context-sensitive soft keys
• Scroll keys
• State of the art technology
• Selectable ring tones
• Call lists
• PC access via Web Browser

If you are interested in purchasing a Polycom 4000 phone from Nextiva, you can either call 800-983-4289 or visit Nextiva’s page dedicated to business VoIP phones.


Nextiva Review – Linksys PAP2T

Linksys PAP2T Review

Linksys PAP2T VoIP Adapter (Image Source:

A high quality, reliable, and secure VoIP adapter

The Linksys PAP2 Internet phone adapter enables small businesses to experience high quality VoIP service over a broadband connection. Simply attach the PAP2 to an active router and utilize the two standard telephone ports to connect conventional telephones (or even fax machines.) Since each port operates individually it is possible for businesses to utilize two separate numbers, just like they would if they had two separate telephone lines.
Users can expect clear voice and audio quality with simultaneous Internet use. It is especially beneficial for professionals on the go, as they can travel with their adapter and experience VoIP from any conventional phone around the world – provided there is an active Internet connection available. An added bonus is the compatibility with all common telephony features; caller ID, call waiting, voice mail, call routing, IP fax etc..

Linksys PAP2T VoIP Adapter Overview:

• Two voice ports (RJ-11) compatible with analog phones and fax machines
• Impedance Agnostics
• Call Waiting, Cancel Call Waiting, Call waiting caller ID
• Caller ID
• Call blocking
• Call forwarding: No answer /Busy
• Do Not Disturb
• Call transfer
• Message indication
• Delayed disconnect
• Off hook
• Hot line and Warm line calling
• Music on hold
• Enhanced security
• DC Input Power Voltage: =5 VDC at 2.0 Max
• Indicator lights

If you are interested in purchasing a Linksys PAP2T adapter from Nextiva, you can either call 800-983-4289 or visit Nextiva’s page dedicated to business VoIP equipment.


Nextiva Review – Polycom IP 335

Polycom SoundPoint IP 335 Review

Business VoIP Phone by Polycom (335)

A great entry-level business VoIP phone

The Polycom 335 contains all of the same features that consumers have come to expect from the Polycom SoundPoint IP line; in look, feel and quality. As well as Integrated PoE support and easy configurability with other applications.
There are some distinct differences, however. Namely the new hi-resolution backlit display, while it is relatively small it is much easier to read thanks to the increased lighting. The second improvement is the dedicated RJ-9 headset port with Electronic Hook Switch support.
The speakerphone quality of the Polycom 335 is impressive and when we compare it with the speakerphone of Linksys and Cisco IP phones, we’d recommend Polycom phones for professionals looking for reliable and high quality speakerphone. Another bonus that comes with the Polycom 335 is the HD Voice feature that is now included with Polycom’s latest line of IP phones. HD Voice delivers unmatched call quality.
While the Polycom 335 is an entry level phone, it still provides excellent voice quality and is perfect for smaller organizations on a budget.

Polycom Soundpoint IP 335 Overview

• Hi-resolution backlit, graphical display
• Two-line entry-level phone
• Easy to use and program
• Power over Ethernet support
• HD Voice
• XML microbrowser
• Backlit 102 x 33 grayscale graphical LCD
• Dedicated RJ-9 headset port

If you are interested in purchasing a Polycom 335 phone from Nextiva, you can either call 800-983-4289 or visit Nextiva’s page dedicated to business VoIP phones.


Nextiva Review – Polycom IP 550

Polycom SoundPoint IP 550 Review

Polycom 550 Business VoIP Phone (Image Source: Telephonyware.com)

Polycom has been delivering business value for many years, and have proven their industry leading experience in the Polycom 550 IP desk phone. Not only does the Polycom 550 boast four-lines it also supports a huge list of revolutionary features. Thanks to Acoustic Clarity Technology, a patent unique to Polycom products, the SoundPoint IP 550 provides distinct and crystal clear HD voice quality; making the Polycom 550 optimal for business conferencing use and in busy environments. The back lit 320 x 160- pixel graphical grayscale LCD display provides optimal viewing potential for directories, buddy lists and XHTML supported web applications; tools capable of enhancing both business processes and productivity. When compared to the SPA9xx and SPA5xx series VoIP phones by Cisco, the price of the Polycom SoundPoint IP 550 is quite higher. Priced at about $250, many smaller or home based businesses are unable to justify the cost even when used in conjunction with a hosted VoIP system. Those who do, however, are likely to experience the extreme manageability and business bolstering effects of an IP phone designed for both the boardroom and the call center floor.

Polycom SoundPoint IP 550 Overview

  • Four-lines
  • HD Voice
  • Backlit 320 x 160 graphical grayscale LCD display
  • Integrated 802.3af PoE support
  • Intercom and digital duplex speakerphone
  • Caller ID, Call display, 3-way calling, call transfer, call waiting
  • Call timer, on hook dialing
  • External power adapter

If you are interested in purchasing a Polycom 550 phone from Nextiva, you can either call 800-983-4289 or visit Nextiva’s page dedicated to VoIP phones.




 
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