Hosted VoIP leaves the heavy technology lifting to another company. It can help a small business appear bigger by offering PBX-style features, such as individual phone numbers for employees and call transfers, even to workers away from their desks. It can include toll-free numbers and integration with e-mail and faxing software. You basically download software and buy or lease IP phones for each user. There's little need to invest in expensive equipment or to pay an IT pro for ongoing support. 8x8 and Speakeasy are among the many companies offering hosted VoIP. Your Internet service provider may offer options for VoIP service, as well.
By contrast, on-premise VoIP will offer all the features of a hosted service, with the option for fine-tuning. Avaya and Cisco are among the vendors to consider. For this VoIP PBX option, however, you'll have to handle all the hardware and the calls, so it's time to call an IT pro. If you're upgrading from a pure PBX system, a VoIP gateway device on your network can make the transition. Once you have VoIP going on your network, you should optimize your router and your network to prioritize traffic to ensure high call quality.
Before You Leap
As for the drawbacks, a hosted service may lack the customization you crave, or charge you extra fees for adding features or new users; it could leave you high and dry if the company goes belly-up, too. With on-premise VoIP, you may suffer the obvious headaches and costs of managing any tech equipment in-house, including a large up-front investment.
Before you make the big VoIP switch-over, look closely at the numbers. Compare what you currently spend per user on phone service with what you project to pay a VoIP provider. Read the fine print of any service to determine any hidden fees. Figure in hardware and ongoing maintenance, and don't forget to add the cost of a faster Internet connection, if you need one.
Case Study: Heating-Products Seller Saves Greenbacks With VoIP
JTG/Muir struggled with an aging PBX phone system. The lack of features and growing maintenance costs turned off the small business, which sells energy-efficient heating equipment directly from manufacturers. The Oakland, California, company turned to BoxIT to upgrade its phone system, hoping to lower costs and provide greater flexibility to its 30 users, including many who work remotely.