Software add-ons give cloud-based phone systems added benefits

Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems can simplify a company’s communications in a number of ways. Upgrading phones from a traditional system to VoIP can streamline call routing and increase efficiency, but it can also benefit customer service.

“When you’re looking at the customer service experience and using your phone system to help you with that, you have to be able to pick and choose those applications that truly are helpful for you,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. “Don’t assume the full features of a really sophisticated phone system are what you need. Pick those applications that make a difference in your business and ignore those that don’t matter.”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about types of VoIP features that are beneficial in terms of customer service.

What software add-ons are available for a VoIP system?

Call recording for call centers is a great attribute of a phone system. It allows you to go back and review calls with your staff or your customers from a quality assurance standpoint. The reviewer can then use the recordings to train other employees or verify what a customer wants or where a problem occurred. There is a manager portal where managers can access calls by operator, time of day, numbers dialed, and other filters to research and analyze. It’s a very strong tool that you can use on selected phones or a selected location.

Call monitoring is another add-on that can be put in place to allow managers to listen in on calls. For quality assurance, managers can evaluate operators in real time. If there is a problem, a manager can actually speak to the operator on the call without the caller hearing and notify the operator to collect an outstanding balance, answer a question in a particular way, whatever the case may be.

Furthermore, they can break in and say, ‘This is the manager, I’d like to discuss this with you,’ and take over the call. It’s a great way to help operators or customer service personnel with their calls.

Features such as these typically require a sophisticated phone system that is designed specifically for call centers. But with VoIP, existing users can implement a software add-on. It can also be trialed or removed if it isn’t right for the company or circumstance.

How can smartphones tie-in with VoIP?

Increasingly, employees are telecommuting or on the road. They are mobile, but need to be a part of a customer service experience. Traditionally, an out-of-office employee can be conferenced-in on a call. Now these employees can be connected via software that allows remote workers’ smartphones to become an extension on the VoIP system. So a four-digit extension system can be used to contact and include someone working in the field.

Are there systems available to analyze calls placed and recorded?

Call detail records are an after-the-fact review of who is calling the company and what numbers they are calling from. These can also be used to evaluate the performance of the sales team or customer service department, the time of day most calls take place, the length of the average call or a number of other metrics. These metrics can be used to review the communications a company has with its customers, and can even be automatically compiled and viewed online as a report.

What does the setup and implementation look like?

Because the cloud-based system is hosted, the vendor should manage it for the customer and set it up. To do so, the vendor interviews the company to determine the features a company needs, installs and applies them. Then during the training sessions, employees are taught how to use the software add-ons.

Alex Desberg is the sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. Reach him at [email protected].

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

How VoIP systems save space, offer low-maintenance solutions

When switching to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems, a business will need to incorporate new equipment and technology. Though it may seem daunting, the transition and subsequent result leads to more manageable communications, a shallow learning curve and support during the process.

“One of the biggest differences between using a traditional phone system and going to a VoIP platform is the huge reduction in equipment that is needed, and you’d be getting better features and advantages out of it,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. “When you’re moving from a traditional world to a VoIP world, there is a reduction in the equipment management and the space required to have the brains of a Private Branch Exchange unit living in your office.”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg to find out what a company can expect when switching to VoIP in regards to space concerns, hardware, and learning and maintaining the new technology.

What are the equipment requirements when incorporating VoIP?

It actually reduces the need for premise based equipment and the resources to keep that equipment up and running. Integrating VoIP systems removes an old phone system, and takes old phones off desks and replaces them with a phone designed for VoIP. It normally uses your existing Internet connection unless that needs to be upgraded to handle the additional bandwidth from the voice communications.

How are employees trained on the new systems?

When the new technology is being presented, part of the process of moving to VoIP is what your business environment can assimilate. There’s a large amount of education upfront in terms of system capability. For instance, end user education is conducted where, when it’s time to put a phone on somebody’s desk, the vendor trains the employee on how to use the phone — there is somebody whose sole responsibility is to go out and train a customer. The employees learn how the phone on their desk works and how that works in conjunction with how calls are coming in.

Is the installation done by the vendor or by the company?

It can be either. If it’s done by the vendor, it’s done as part of that training so when the vendor is out doing the installation, training also is being conducted.

How much maintenance is required?

Software updates, upgrades to the system and maintenance done on the system are all part of the service. The only thing that needs to be maintained in terms of hardware or software is the phone on the desk. If a company owns its own hardware, the equipment will be supported until it stops working and then the customer may need to replace it. Software upgrades are automatic, typically involving a phone reboot in the middle of the night during non-office hours.

What happens in the case of power outages?

One of the functions of VoIP is that it actually has some built-in disaster recovery. So even if a phone loses power, breaks or Internet connection at the office is lost, the system itself is aware of that outage and reroutes calls. For example, if a company’s phones go down from a power outage, the system can automatically send calls to alternate lines such as cell phones.  

How much bandwidth does a company need for VoIP?

It boils down to how much bandwidth a company has prior to installing VoIP. If a company is already pushing its usage to the peak and there are issues with its Internet service, adding a VoIP Internet-based phone system will not help the scenario. The solution is to either upgrade bandwidth or separate voice and data into two connections. But the company can grow the system as needed.

Alex Desberg is sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. Reach him at [email protected].

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

How to take your VoIP conversion at your own pace

Overhauling an office phone system is often a necessary part of growing, improving and updating an organization’s technology. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a common upgrade that offers a variety of options to fit a business’ needs, whether it has a small, medium or large employee base.

Each VoIP system can be custom built to fit the specific requirements of a company, says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director of Ohio.net. A specific VoIP product is chosen based on the company’s specific needs, and its implementation is ramped up in a way that’s manageable.

“When you’re talking about your phone system, it can be pretty painful when you don’t know what to expect,” Desberg says. This is why companies have the option of switching everything over at once, or taking a step-by-step approach when switching to VoIP.

Smart Business spoke with Desberg to examine the ways companies can integrate VoIP.

When converting to VoIP, is there one best way to transition or are there options?

Each VoIP-based phone system is meant to work uniquely. Some companies don’t know what’s available out there, and really aren’t ready to jump in with both feet to a brand new phone system and service provider. If a company knows that over the next few years they’re going to grow, they’re going to change, or they’re going to move, then there are specific opportunities that arise.

When does it make sense to use a step-by-step approach?

Unlike traditional telephone service, a step-by-step approach can be used as opposed to transitioning everything when improving communications using VoIP. In many situations, dial tone from traditional telephone providers can be duplicated and moved to the VoIP realm. It’s then offered back in a cost-effective way.

If a company is planning to move to a new facility it is a great opportunity to start down the path of new technology. The organization can take the phone numbers that it currently has and move them to VoIP services. Then in the new location, deploy what looks like traditional phones. When the company is ready, it can retire its old phone system and slowly step completely into VoIP. It eases the process for the company and its employees.

Remote workers or remote offices that are using separate phone systems raise more opportunity to investigate VoIP options. Those multiple environments can be brought together so that they look and operate like a single phone service. It can be a mix-and-match environment, offices and workers can be spread out across the country, deploy individual phones and systems for them while the main office is still working off of the traditional phone configuration.

In what circumstances is it better to switch all at once?

When a company is growing, often its phone system is something that’s an afterthought. Either the current phone system can’t handle more employees, the voicemail is always full or the technology is in need of updating. A good option at that point is to move to a platform that doesn’t have those limitations. Hosted VoIP, where all services and all phones are provided, has basically unlimited growth potential. So there is a great opportunity for a company to avoid continuously reinvesting in old technology.

How can a company determine what’s best for its situation?

The best and most important part of the process is planning. It’s based on what a company needs going forward. Not only is the company preparing for new hardware, but also new expectations on the IT staff and the network itself. It’s important to make sure that the VoIP provider offers training as part of its service. And financially, a company has to make sure that it is a good way to go and a good investment.

Alex Desberg is sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. Reach him at [email protected].

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

How VoIP can be designed to fit the unique needs of different industries

Regardless of its size or sector a company works within, all businesses have certain common threads. For instance, the need to communicate effectively and efficiently — both internally and externally — is something every business deals with. However, it’s also important to note that every business has a unique communication DNA. A phone system that works for one company might not make sense for another.

“Every business is different,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. “They shouldn’t be shoehorned into an off-the-shelf phone solution.”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about the importance of customization, and how VoIP can be tailored to serve various industries.

How can VoIP be designed to fit different markets that have different needs?

Different industry segments have characteristics that are only seen within that space. By deploying a customized VoIP system, a company can gain advantages from certain functions that are designed to fit that industry’s specific needs. It’s important to avoid trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

How can VoIP be tailored to serve the manufacturing sector?

Manufacturing facilities typically have two different components. First is the headquarters, which serves as the hub of communications and houses accounting, sales and administrative personnel. The sales team, which generally uses headquarters as their home-base, need a phone system that can help them keep in touch with their main facility while they’re out pounding the pavement. Then there are remote manufacturing and warehouse facilities that are often spread throughout the country or world. Not only is there a need for fluid communication at the administrative level, but the remote facilities must also be able to correspond effortlessly with headquarters. A VoIP system can be tailored to meet the disparate needs of a manufacturing facility, enabling that facility to become more accessible, and ultimately, more efficient.

How can VoIP support the needs of CPAs and financial institutions?

Typically, in these types of businesses, the staff are housed in a single location. If there are multiple locations, the phone needs are often identical. Employees are usually on the phone a good part of the day and there is a need for continual customer contact. The basic administrative functions are the most important components for such businesses. Because the workforce is stationary, there is rarely a need for remote or mobile applications.

How can VoIP streamline calls for the medical sector?

Most small to midsize doctor’s offices are structured so that during the day inbound calls go through a receptionist. During the evening, medical practitioners utilize absentee services where callers are redirected through phone numbers that lead to on-call personnel or forwarded to hospitals in the case of emergencies. A VoIP system can redirect, or triage, phone calls as needed.

How can VoIP allow a virtual company to appear as if they are well grounded?

More and more companies are shedding their brick and mortar locations in favor of having their employees work remotely. By having a front-end VoIP configuration, organizations can present a unified communications system that will give the appearance of a solid business. Functions like call forwarding, voice mail and conference calling are available so employees can stay connected without being tied to an office. Also, VoIP can eliminate the need for companies to utilize traditional phone lines and equipment, so overall cost savings and service enhancements can be significant.

Alex Desberg is sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. Reach him at [email protected].

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

Ohio.net: How software development is improving the VoIP experience

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) offerings have come a long way in a short time. One of the primary advances has been the evolution from fully hosted VoIP systems to VoIP solutions that can be managed internally.

Such a setup is ideal for IT managers or telecom managers in organizations that are moving to VoIP platforms, says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net.

“The VoIP provider provides the environment — so it is secure, stable and packed with feature-rich options — while the day-to-day details can be managed by a client’s telecom professional,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about software developments, integration and how to properly evaluate VoIP systems.

What’s in telecommunications that is improving the business phone service model?

The VoIP software industry is creating a feature-enhanced experience not only for the end user, or the people using the phones, but also the people who manage the phone systems. By utilizing cloud-based platforms that are virtually housed, businesses can manage their own systems internally. The phones are deployed wherever they are needed, regardless of geography.

The end-user experience is enhanced because the same phone service is accessible even if there are multiple locations. For example, a company might have five locations spread across the country, each with a different phone system. From a corporate standpoint, training employees on phone systems becomes difficult, and managing the system so customers have a uniform experience is even more challenging. With VoIP, all the phones are on the same platform, look the same, work the same and the end user’s experience is identical.

From a traditional phone system perspective, whenever you want new features, you have to buy new hardware and pay someone to upgrade the system for you. However, with a cloud-based system, it’s as simple as having your VoIP provider make a configuration change. For example, you can tell the provider to add call recording to your system remotely and then select which users on the system need it.

What are the benefits of working with a VoIP provider that can offer multiple platforms?

Traditionally, when you buy a phone system, you’re buying from a provider that represents a specific brand or type of offering. So, in most cases, you need to bring in three or four different service providers in order to evaluate different versions. However, a versatile VoIP provider should have the ability to offer multiple service packages with completely different software, hardware and deployment options. This is ideal for companies that are growing and want to evaluate different options from a single source.

What are some of the new trends in VoIP?

VoIP providers are now implementing software for phone systems designed to seamlessly integrate with CRM and other customer management software. Typically screen-pop technology and data queries can be launched from a VoIP phone system.

Finally, smartphone and app integration are becoming increasingly popular. For example, employees can have apps on their smartphones, which allows them to toggle back and forth between their cell phone and office phone. Basically, the smartphone serves as an extension of the office system.

What is the best way to determine an appropriate VoIP solution?

It’s important to perform a thorough evaluation of what’s out there. VoIP is portable, so have a provider come to your office and give a demonstration. It’s important to see it function in your environment and test various features to ensure the system is a good fit. Any VoIP provider that is offering a modern platform should be able to bring its system directly to you for an evaluation from the comfort of your own office with no charges incurred.

Alex Desberg is sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. Reach him at [email protected].

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

Ohio.net: How VoIP is enabling companies to conduct business on the go

Cloud computing for business has become commonplace. The reason? Companies want technological conveniences and marketplace advantages. However, phone services are often left behind because of traditional phone service capabilities.

This is starting to change. Now, instead of being subject to the capabilities of a phone system, businesses are dictating how they want to communicate with their customers.

In the future, Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net, says he envisions a mass migration away from stationary services tied to brick and mortar to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) capabilities that incorporate the desk phone, the cell phone and Web-based services.

“VoIP can play a huge role by incorporating offices with telecommuters and a mobile workforce,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about the evolution of VoIP, who is driving the changes and what he expects in the future.

How is the VoIP world evolving to serve its customers?

It’s amazing how quickly the VoIP industry has evolved in a relatively short time. In contrast, traditional phone services are nearly exact replicas of what they were decades ago. While traditional telecom offers different services and features on various phone systems, the fundamental telephone service hasn’t changed.

In the VoIP world, the primary change we’ve seen has been moving from basic emulation and hosted services to highly expandable VoIP solutions that incorporate many new features. Businesses have developed a high comfort level with VoIP, so there has been a shift to businesses wanting to manage their own VoIP solutions; they just don’t want the responsibility of hosting the phone system. This do-it-yourself approach has gained traction as a tactic to save money by limiting outsourcing. Since VoIP systems are cloud based, a company’s communications infrastructure, which is hosted remotely, is still safe and secure.

Are there any other areas of evolutionary change?

Another example of evolutionary change is that VoIP providers are now incorporating functionality into cloud platforms that were traditionally only available on a network.

For instance, call recording on a hosted system used to work by having a server with devices that were able to record phone calls. With the second generation of cloud-based private branch exchange, this can be brought into the cloud environment and is immediately available for anyone on the phone network in real time.

Who is driving the changes?

Most VoIP systems are driven by the software and platform that they were built with. That has been the limiting factor of early versions of VoIP. Now, customers are dictating how they want the system to work and how quickly the evolution curve is. In essence, the customer’s input is impacting the direction of VoIP.

How is VoIP able to respond to changes in the telecom market so quickly?

The VoIP life cycle moves at an accelerated pace when compared to traditional telephony. Perhaps the best way to measure VoIP time is to compare it to Internet time, which moves at a much quicker rate than anything we’ve seen historically.

Over the next several years, as software changes and new technologies develop, consumers are going to witness further evolutions in the VoIP field.

How do you envision the future of VoIP?

We are going to continue to see the shift to a cloud-based model. With hosted VoIP, there are still phone devices on the office desk. However, businesses want their phone services to integrate with their mobile devices. A common request from customers is to have their business phone number integrate to their cell phone so they can respond to the needs of their customers more timely.

Businesses are looking for different characteristics associated with their phone system that will help set themselves apart from their competitors.

Alex Desberg is sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. Reach him at [email protected].

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

Ohio.net: How to implement cutting-edge VoIP technologies with a dash of caution

Pushing the envelope by implementing new Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services makes sense for forward-thinking companies. After all, streamlining data and communications allows you to become more efficient. And increased productivity translates to the bottom line.

However, it’s important not to jump on board with an inexperienced VoIP provider that hasn’t properly tested its technologies.

“Most people prefer something that is tried and true, regardless if it’s new or not,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net.

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about fully hosted and cloud-based telephone systems and what to look for in a VoIP provider.

What are some of the characteristics that make hosted and cloud-based telephone systems more attractive than traditional phone services?

Typically, with traditional premise-based private branch exchange (PBX), you buy a hardware solution and pay for the features that you want upfront. Until you need to renew the licensing or upgrade your system, you are pretty much set. However, adding services can be an arduous task because if you want to add lines or provide call queuing someone has to come out to manage the hardware and update the software at your location.

Hosted VoIP and virtual PBX are cloud-based, so when changes are needed it’s as simple as contacting your VoIP provider to remotely toggle a specific feature or service on or off.

How can companies feel secure about using cutting-edge technologies for their telecommunication needs?

New offerings are constantly coming out in the VoIP world, but the most important thing is that they are properly tested and correctly launched. You don’t want to take a gamble on a new VoIP technology that may or may not work for your business — you want to be sure that it will work.

Make sure you are working with a provider that has a history of telecommunications experience and focuses on staying ahead of the technology curve. It’s important to work with an experienced VoIP provider that can help you navigate through the new technology waters and figure out what will be best for your business.

What resources should a mid-market company evaluate when choosing telecommunication services?

The first resource that should be evaluated is technical talent: What kind of talent do you have available internally to assimilate VoIP technologies into your business model? Some companies prefer to handle their own problem-solving, and if they have capable IT personnel, this is a valid option. If you don’t have the technical expertise available internally, then you can use a VoIP provider that handles everything from setup to recommended upgrades.

Another resource to consider is capital investment versus a service model. If you want to buy a phone system with capabilities for popular services such as call recording, queuing, integration into customer relationship management software and fail-over services, there is going to be a significant upfront investment. However, if you want these services, but don’t want to pay for it all upfront, you can have a VoIP provider incorporate these services on a monthly basis.

How can a business save money by handling VoIP services internally?

If you have talent on-hand with time to spend on implementing VoIP services, then you can realize significant cost savings. Some VoIP providers make the learning curve very easy. For example, you can buy space on a virtually hosted cloud platform and have your personnel learn how to operate the system in a safe and secure environment, rather than trying to figure it out in a brick and mortar location.

Alex Desberg is sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. Reach him at [email protected].

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

Ohio.net: Why businesses are flocking to VoIP telecommunications

The use of cloud computing is surging in the business world. Against such a backdrop it only makes sense that companies would want to emulate this model with their phone services — that is, make themselves available no matter their location. While traditional phone services have been slow to respond to the requests, VoIP providers are jumping at the opportunity.

“Telecommunications is a 100-year-old technology,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. “Things have changed, and now it’s more important than ever for customers to get through to businesses quickly and effectively.”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about how innovation is reshaping the telecommunications landscape and why it’s so important to always be available to customers.

How is innovation changing the telecommunications landscape?

Businesses are looking for different characteristics associated with their phone system that will help set themselves apart from their competitors. This goes beyond just having a business phone system designed to answer calls or put people in voice mail. In terms of innovation, these can be simple changes or complex changes — it depends on what the business is looking for.

How are companies integrating their telecommunication features into their business model?

Cloud computing is becoming very popular. People are pushing their data away from their facility so it is available anywhere. However, they haven’t done this with their phone system because of traditional phone service capabilities. This is starting to change. Now, instead of being subject to the capabilities of a phone system, businesses are dictating how they want to communicate with their customers.

Why is it so important to be readily accessible to customers?

Customers have short attention spans, and they want to be served quickly. They don’t have the time to leave a voice mail message and wait for someone to respond a half-day later or the next business day.

Much like the traditional way of finding a business in the Yellow Pages, if the first company didn’t answer, you’d simply call another one. A lot of consumers are doing that now because time is money. If they can’t immediately reach the person that they want to talk to, they will move on. You don’t want that to happen to your business.

How is VoIP helping incubated businesses that are not as moveable as they might think?

Business incubators are starting to crop up all over the place. Such entities support the development of entrepreneurial companies through an array of business support resources and services. When the companies grow and need to move out of the incubator, they realize that they can’t easily take the phone number that they’ve been using to conduct their business transactions.

Now VoIP providers are working with incubators to provide VoIP services that can be moved quickly and easily with a business when it’s ready to graduate from an incubator and expand its footprint.

Why is reducing system duplication becoming such a big trend?

Reducing system duplication is particularly popular with businesses that have multiple locations. When such businesses start pushing data out to the cloud and they are remotely accessing the information, they realize that every facility they own doesn’t need a server or duplication of other resources like phone systems.

It makes sense for these businesses to have centralized communications. Everyone accessing the phone system can share centralized voice mail and four-digit dialing between locations. Not only does this make sense economically, but also from a unity standpoint in terms of a single telecommunications presence.

Alex Desberg is sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. Reach him at [email protected].

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

How the DIY model applies to VoIP

More and more business professionals are exploring the do-it-yourself (DIY) model when it comes to their telephone communications. In many cases, however, a hosted model — where a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) provider manages your system at a data center location — might make the most sense.

Having a hosted solution may free your business from bearing the responsibility of installing, maintaining and repairing telephony software. In the long run, this could add up to large savings.

When searching for a VoIP provider, Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net, says you must make sure you are able to find the proper fit.
“It’s important to find a company that works the way that you want to work,” he says. “If service and support is important to you, find a VoIP provider that will support your needs and expectations.”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about VoIP, the flexibility of a supported, DIY model and the benefits of a hosted model.

How can a good VoIP provider help with the transition to a cloud-based telephone system?

There has been a shift in the VoIP industry toward implementing open-source voice applications. The supported, DIY VoIP approach has gained traction because it can save money by limiting the amount of outsourcing while working with an experienced provider. For example, IT consultants and VoIP companies frequently install solutions such as Asterisk, an open-source telephony software system, and then the company manages the applications internally. However, this DIY approach can present challenges when it’s not well supported by your dial tone provider.

In order to fully realize the benefits of new technologies, it’s best to combine the new software environment with a VoIP provider that is well versed in hosting, hardware and integration to the traditional world of telephony. If the telephone is your primary way to communicate with your customers, it is too important of a matter to leave to chance.

How much control can a company have over the VoIP system?

There are three options. The first is a hosted model where the VoIP provider handles all of the changes, including managing the software. This is a service-based model, so if the business needs support, it can contact the VoIP provider that helps provide solutions to any problems that may be encountered.

With new cloud-based systems, some companies prefer to support their own changes. The supported DIY or Virtual PBX solution provides a stable environment to host the software-based phone system. This would be ideal for a business with capable IT personnel, where executives want to keep control of their technology reins but still have a fall back for technical support.

The final option is to have the end-user handle everything, from setup to tech support in a secure environment with dial tone and trunking available. Essentially, the business may bring its existing software-based phone system into a data center that is focused on VoIP services.

What is the advantage of divvying up responsibility when it comes to phone systems?

In the traditional telephone world, every time a phone system breaks down or there is a need for an upgrade, a call is made to an outside consultant who specializes in that specific phone system.

It stands to reason that the same might ring true in the cloud-based world if you dive in unprepared. Working with an experienced VoIP provider will help future proof your telecommunications by distributing responsibility and having a good support structure. In fact, a solid VoIP provider will have built-in redundancy to protect against downtime.

With a traditional or even VoIP premise-based model, if a system goes down, you’re down until it gets fixed. With a virtual — or host-based model — the system simply doesn’t go down because there is redundancy already in place.

Alex Desberg is sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. Reach him at [email protected].

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

How to find a VoIP provider that fits your business

There are many Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers out there, some large and some small. In the case of telecommunications, bigger is not necessarily better. Small providers tend to be more nimble and are able to customize and innovate in order to help their clients grow.

Also, independent VoIP providers can lend a personal touch, says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net.

“Most small and medium-sized businesses want to work with a local company. Companies don’t want offshore support,” he says. “They want someone who is in their backyard. Someone who is in the same time zone and easy to relate to.”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about changes in the VoIP landscape, the differences between providers, and the importance of customer service and support.

How has the VoIP landscape changed in recent years?

In recent years, the marketplace has changed. AT&T and some of the other big players are now offering VoIP services. While the corporate giants have marketing dollars behind them to push their products, it is the smaller, more flexible companies who are pioneering new technologies.

Companies looking for an apples-to-apples replacement for traditional phone systems might be satisfied with a traditional provider.

However, business leaders that want to make a change to VoIP typically prefer working with agile companies that are trailblazers and provide service at the local level.

What are some of the differences between VoIP providers?

Companies interested in VoIP services have two options: They can either choose a big provider with pre-set packages or work with a small, innovative company that is willing to invent solutions from scratch.

For example, many organizations want to integrate their customer relationship management system with their phone system. Unless you work with a provider willing to break the mold and try new technology, it’s likely that you’ll receive a one-size-fits-all model that might or might not be a good fit.

How important is customer service and support?

The service standpoint is what truly makes VoIP providers stand out. Either they are readily available, hands-on and willing to help navigate technological challenges, or they take the stance of expecting a business to be the one that makes accommodations, fitting the company’s telecommunications needs into inflexible packages.

The majority of small and midsize businesses have a telephone system that they set up years ago and haven’t made any changes to since. Such a system might work fine and it serves their purposes — they don’t need anything special.

However, there are other organizations that want to streamline their data and communications in order to be more efficient. That’s when it’s important to have a more dynamic provider that is pushing the envelope and striving to offer new services.

How should a business go about evaluating its telecommunication needs?

Businesses tend to have an IT manager or communications director put together an annual plan for servers, software, licensing, etc., but telecommunications companies will often wait until the contract is set to expire or there are budget cuts.

Under this scenario there is not enough time to investigate what services are out there that might be beneficial. Businesses tend to shoehorn themselves into what they find at the last minute within the budget, rather than figuring out what makes the most sense from an operational perspective, which may not be the best way to approach your telecommunication needs.

Alex Desberg is sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. Reach him at [email protected].

To find out more about Ohio.net’s VoIP solutions, visit www.ohio.net.

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net