Picking a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system seems like a lot to consider. There are just so many options and VoIP configurations available.
To help you out on your mission to upgrade your commercial phone service, we've put together a list of 17 dos and don'ts to give you some guidance.
DO: Evaluate VoIP requirements
Knowing how many phone lines you will use a year from now will help you plan effectively. How many business phone lines will you use consistently? How many calls does your office handle at the same time? Are you all in one office, do you have multiple locations, or is everyone working from home?
These questions and more are incredibly relevant to the results you get when you switch to a cloud phone system. It's helpful to document the specifics of your business and reference them while researching a provider.
DON'T: Miss out on essential VoIP features
There is a lot more to a VoIP system than the ability to make calls. Make a list of features that you'll need. Then do some research on available features or review some feature lists. If you're not sure about a feature, ask. There are many forums where you can chat with experts or sales representatives who would be both knowledgeable in the subject and more than willing to assist.
Here are several top VoIP features to consider:
- Multi-level auto attendants
- Call forwarding
- Toll-free business number
- Call recording
- Conference calling
- 1:1 video chat
- Text messaging
- Online faxing service
- Mobile and desktop calling apps
DON'T: Overestimate available network bandwidth
Expect that VoIP calls will take around 100 Kbps of bandwidth. That's not a lot of download bandwidth, but depending on the packages available by your ISP, it might be a lot of upload bandwidth. You'll want to multiply this by the number of phone calls happening on your network with your VoIP architecture.
Many business activities can consume upload bandwidth that might be necessary for your phones. A few examples are automated backup of files or computers, ongoing web meetings, or live streaming a company-wide event.
Running out of upload bandwidth degrades the quality of your phone conversations. It results in your customer not being able to understand you because your voice is breaking up.
Related: How Much Data Does VoIP Use?
DO: Run tests and check latency
Depending on which business VoIP provider you choose, you might need to use additional hardware. It might be worth it to ask for an IP address your network specialists can test.
The further their servers are from your business, the longer it takes data to get there and to come back. It might only be by milliseconds, but you'll undoubtedly notice when it gets longer. Even some worldwide providers may only have one or two servers in any given country. Or the nearest one might be thousands of miles away.
Running tests to the WAN IP will provide you with accurate data to make decisions. Likewise, performing a VoIP speed test during the workday will give you realistic network performance benchmarks.
DO: Consider wired over Wi-Fi
Your open floor plan and lack of seating arrangements may be an aesthetically pleasing office design, but how are your agents going to get work done? When it comes to phone calls, predictability is a great asset. Knowing where your phone is, what shows up when you dial out, and your direct dial phone number are all benefits.
With wired phones, there's rarely any outside interference. The audio quality is a key benefit. The connection to the internet is stable and is noticeably faster. If your office has a lot more space, then it might be cost-prohibitive to have an Ethernet drop at every desk.
In these cases, a strong Wi-Fi signal with extra wireless access points (i.e., mesh Wi-Fi or WDS) for your office might be more beneficial, as they allow your agents to use a VoIP softphone on their computers.
DO: Evaluate network hardware and accessories
Understanding your local network is helpful in quickly implementing a new VoIP service into your business environment.
Routers and gateways rented from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) typically offer fewer VoIP configuration options. Replacing that network device with a standalone modem and a separate router gives you more control. It also provides a better environment for VoIP calls.
One upgrade to think about is Power over Ethernet (PoE). These network switches reduce the number of power cords in the office if you're using desk phones.
If you have a crowded office, you might want to consider getting headsets with acoustic fencing and noise cancellation.
Related: 10 Best VoIP Routers to Buy
DON'T: Assume you need VoIP phones
While desk phones are great pieces of hardware and can improve the overall audio quality with some manufacturer innovations, they aren't always necessary. Purchasing and receiving phones takes time, even if you spring for the overnight shipping. Many VoIP providers also provide softphone applications for smartphones or computers.
With a headset and a laptop, the business phone is as mobile as any remote worker. It doesn't have to be costly to improve everyone's calling experience.
On a cell phone, you can use LTE data to have an HD quality call in a cafe, or a restaurant. Today's workers aren't necessarily in the office, and their phones shouldn't be either.
DO: Set up data prioritization / QoS
Understanding the ebb and flow of your bandwidth utilization is important in maintaining a high-quality VoIP connection. Delays by even a fraction of a second are noticeable, so every bit of speed counts.
Configuring data prioritization or Quality of Service (QoS) is a method that you can use to regulate and balance the flow of voice and data traffic through your network. QoS is managed within your router to prioritize voice data over other kinds of data that may not be as real-time, but you should consider prioritizing VoIP devices on your switches as well. This way, the entirety of your network operates with efficiency, and your telephone traffic is treated like a VIP.
Using a Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) tagging to segment your voice and data can assist in building a QoS configuration network-wide.
Related: A 5-Step VoIP Implementation Guide
DON'T: Get stuck with poor voice quality
Lots of factors affect voice quality, internet quality, and stability. For instance, if a call travels through the traditional telephone network (PSTN), or even the type of handset of the phone you're using.
The goal is to control what you can. Work with your internet service provider to provide long-term monitoring of your internet connection to check for packet loss and signal disruption. Lost voice packets are lost bits of conversation.
Make sure your phones or softphones support HD-Voice codecs. Purchase conference phones optimized for your conference rooms.
When all else fails, work with your VoIP service provider to identify and isolate the source of any audio or network issues.
DO: Verify phone number portability
Not all service providers can handle all phone numbers. Service providers can be carriers themselves or peer with carriers to hold and provide connectivity to phone numbers. The more remote your location, the harder it is to have a footprint in the area with which to provide service.
When you're in conversation with a cloud phone provider, ask them to check the portability of your number. It's better than selecting one and finding out that they can't port your phone number.
DON'T: Keep using your old machine for faxing
Faxing is not dead — many industries rely heavily on faxing. However, that doesn't mean that you need to keep a landline open and continue using an old fax machine. Check out an online faxing service (also known as e-faxing). These solutions let you send and receive faxes via email or a web portal.
If you're in an industry that cares about HIPAA, ensure that your fax service is HIPAA compliant. It may require a hardware option to hook into your fax machine called a fax bridge, but it will meet the HIPAA guidelines for compliance.
Did you know that Nextiva includes online faxing with its business phone service? You won't need to pay for an online fax service again!
DO: Get familiar with your VoIP phone system dashboard
You could call into your provider with every change that you want to make in your system. Most of them will happily make any required changes. However, the process of calling in and having someone else perform the work can take a lot of time.
As an internet phone service, Nextiva provides an easy-to-use portal for managing the entire account. Resetting passwords, adjusting call forwarding, changing voicemail PINs, and more can be done online.
Managing your business phone account online could ultimately save you time and money during a busy workday.
DON'T: Avoid training materials
We get it; you don't like to read instruction manuals. But for your phone system, you should at least take a peek to see how to tailor it to your business needs.
Nextiva has put together easy-to-read support resources to keep you and your team productive. Check out our Quick Reference Guides and user manuals for many popular VoIP devices.
Every bit of knowledge has value in limiting the amount of time you spend asking for help and increases your value to your company.
DO: Plan out phone extensions
When your VoIP system lets you define everyone's phone extension, and the extension for advanced features, it can get confusing. It's best if you develop an organized system for providing extensions.
You can define the first number by the location. For instance, consider this approach:
- HQ is 1000-1999
- Satellite office is 2000-2999
- Warehouse is 3000-3999
- Keep user extensions within the 1-200 range for each office.
- Automated Attendants and Call Groups 300s
- Call Centers 400s
- Make every office's group page number 999
This way, just from the phone extension number alone, you can get an idea of the groups and the people behind them. Grouping and identifying extensions can keep your offices organized and eliminate the need to have expansive reference lists.
DON'T: Skimp when choosing a VoIP provider
Selecting the cheapest phone system might seem like the best option, but it never pays off. Cloud PBXs today provide so much more than phone service. The cheapest one might not yield the highest return on your investment.
Look at the other tools you're currently using:
- Conference calling and web meetings
- Online surveys and polls
- Sales pipeline CRM
- Customer helpdesk
- Website chat
- Team chat and collaboration
These "small" expenses add up. It might be more valuable to opt for a unified communications solution that can eliminate costly tools in one platform.
When discussing your company's phone service needs, don't be afraid to ask if they have a CRM or online survey solution to trim those extra costs.
Compare the features mentioned earlier against all the VoIP providers to ensure that they have everything you need to succeed.
DON'T: Forget about custom greetings
If you want to maximize the professional appearance of your company, big or small, you can use a custom greeting. These recorded messages are played to callers, giving them precise instructions during your VoIP call flow.
Greetings for your phone system can be made better with a trustworthy and professional voice recording. (Nextiva itself has a sound studio just for this purpose.)
Enhance your hold music with special offers or reminders. Even voicemail greetings can provide additional value by ensuring you ask for all the relevant details that your customer can leave in their voicemail message.
Custom greetings can provide you an edge over your competitors, and enhance the customer experience with your company.
DO: Take your VoIP security seriously
Users and administrators should have strong passwords. Avoid sharing logins and passwords since they can be misplaced or even fall into the wrong hands.
Even with Network Address Translation (NAT), you need to keep the firmware on your router updated. These updates improve the performance and phone system security for everyone's peace of mind.
Review your call logs and analytics for unusual call volume, and you'll save money from fraudulent activity and protect your customers' information all at the same time. Plus with call encryption, you'll shield conversations from prying eyes (and ears).
Hopefully, these dos and don'ts help you plan out your phone system upgrade. Configuring VoIP is simpler than you think.
If you have any questions, just ask. Our team is ready and willing to help you take advantage of the benefits of a cloud phone system.
Jeremiah Zerby started from the bottom now he’s here. He spent three years on the front lines of technical support, troubleshooting internet and VoIP issues. He moved forward and up and into the technical writing and marketing content creation space. He’s helped set up hundreds of customer accounts and provide advice to many people with questions or issues with their voice service.