Top 5 FAQs about VoIP Phone Systems for Newbies
December 17, 2014
If you’re new to VoIP phone systems and looking for an easy place to start, you’ve come to the right place! We work with business of all shapes and sizes to get started with VoIP. Even beginners can set up an entire business phone system without prior experience or training.
Here are answers to five of the most frequently asked questions we get from small businesses looking into VoIP phone systems.
1. Can I keep my existing phone numbers?
In most cases you own your phone numbers and can port it away from your existing carrier. By law, carriers cannot hold your phone number hostage. You can check your number portability with us by writing to email@example.com, and then submit your porting request to Telzio to initiate the transfer process. It can take anywhere from 24 hours to a week for a number to transfer depending on when the old carrier releases it, and Telzio will email you with the porting date of when your number will be transferred. It’s important not to cancel phone service with your old provider until after this porting date.
2. Can I use the phones I already have?
In order to use VoIP service, you’ll need phones that connect to the internet, such as IP phones (for your desk), softphones (on your computer), or the Telzio mobile app. Your old analog phones will not work with VoIP, unless you use an ATA adapter, which is usually not recommended. Popular brands of IP phones include Cisco, Yealink, Grandstream, and Polycom.
Most VoIP providers sell pre-configured phones, but you should check with the VoIP provider (not the phone manufacturer) that they don’t lock the phones or you’ll have to buy new phones (or attempt to unlock them) if you ever switch VoIP providers.
You can buy pre-configured IP phones from Telzio that arrive ready for calling with your extension already programmed into the phone, and your phones are never locked in.
3. Can I forward calls to my cell phone?
You can use the Telzio mobile app to make and receive calls on your cell phone. The mobile app works using your data or wifi connection and keeps your business line separate from your personal line. It’s easy to distinguish which calls are coming through Telzio versus your personal number, and you don’t need to keep the app open for calls to come through. You can also set up backup call routing so calls get forwarded to your personal cellular number if you have no internet connection. With the mobile app you can forward calls to people anywhere, and customize settings like hold music, call screening, call recording and caller ID.
4. Is my Internet connection fast enough for VoIP?
Most internet connections can handle VoIP phone systems today, unless it’s an old dial-up modem. A two-way VoIP phone call would theoretically use around 128 kb/s, and most standard broadband connections are around 3 mbit (3000 kb/s) and up. This means a typical small businesses should have sufficient Internet speed to use VoIP.
You can take a speed test at www.speedtest.net to see how fast your connection is. The best way to find out if your internet is fast enough for a VoIP system is to sign up for a free trial and make test calls yourself. If you have VoIP call quality issues, don’t be too quick to assume that a VoIP phone system isn’t plausible. The first thing you should ask your IT person is about configuring the Quality of Service (QoS) setting on your router to prioritize VoIP traffic.
For VoIP call quality issues, first try to configure the Quality of Service setting on your router to prioritize VoIP traffic.
5. What is the cost for VoIP service?
VoIP service varies among providers when it comes to setup costs, monthly price, cost to scale, contracts, and ease-of-use. All these elements will factor into your ongoing costs. You should find out how many users and minutes you need to find the best pricing, and test out different systems to see who offers the most flexibility when it comes to adding features and users. If your business plans to grow and hire employees, or needs to update a greeting now and again, an easy-to-use interface and flexible plans will save you plenty of pain and dollars.
First you have to consider what you’re getting with your phone system before you can evaluate where the cost value is with different providers.
- Phone numbers - local and toll free numbers
- Calling capabilities (voice)
- Texting (SMS)
- Extensions / Users
- Features (auto attendants, call recording, voicemail, virtual fax, etc.)
- Desk phones
Most VoIP providers charge a fee for each person or device you need connected to your phone system. Each of these employees will need a user, which usually costs around $30/mo per user. Telzio offers a much more economical pricing model for small businesses by including all your users for free, so you only pay for the usage (minutes/texts) you need.
Be careful about VoIP providers that offer “unlimited” calling plans. Unlimited can mean that you’re allowed unlimited calling, but there are only a certain number of minutes included for free before overages kick in. Once you clarify what’s actually included, you can do a quick calculation to see if paying a fee per user is more cost effective than paying for a plan where all your users share minutes. You can find out how many minutes your company uses on your phone statements or by calling your provider.
You should also make sure the features you need are included with your plan. Some VoIP providers charge extra to use "advanced" features like call recording. With Telzio, all the features are included with every plan, which are easy to manage through our self-service website. Anytime you need to edit a setting or add a new user, you can do it with a few clicks without calling a technician.
Screening Questions for Potential VoIP Providers
Before you sign on with any VoIP service, it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into and how to get out of it, if it comes down to that. Switching to a new phone service can still result in switching costs given the due diligence time, and even more so if termination fees are involved.
As part of your due diligence, here are a list of questions you should ask before committing to a new phone system, so you can avoid hidden fees, lack of customer service, and difficulty managing your services, among other potential issues.
Where can I see your system status log?
A system status log monitors how a platform has been running. It shows you any incidents of downtime, what areas were affected by the downtime, and how long it took for them to recover.
What matters is how frequently they have outages, and how quickly they are able to repair it. A system status log should be easily accessible before signing up and tells the true story of the system’s reliability.
Telzio has an unprecedented 100% uptime over the last several years. Learn more about our commitment to reliability.
What level of customer support is included?
Some providers limit the amount of customer support you get if you’re not spending over a certain dollar amount. This can be a huge problem if the service has interruptions, or if the interface is not easy to use. Fixing a problem can be as simple as updating a setting on your phone, but if you can’t get the support you need, these problems can cause hours of downtime and losses.
As a small business, you may be outsourcing your IT, or may not qualify for full support from some providers. Thus, if your phone system doesn’t come with a user-friendly interface that you yourself can manage, your hands are going to be tied every time you need to manage your services.
Telzio includes unlimited customer support to all accounts, regardless of your monthly spend.
Our five star customer reviews speak for themselves.
Who are your competitors?
You’ve likely spent a good amount of time researching the different VoIP services available to your business. There are a handful of providers that dominate the ad space, and also lesser-known options that could be viable options. Finding these alternatives can help you make a more informed decision that’s not influenced by sponsored posts, and help you compare products side by side.
What’s important is understanding where your pain points are, and how the different models offered by various VoIP providers affect those areas. Whether it boils down to features, the interface, or simply cost, one provider can paint a very different picture than another. It’s up to you to decipher what works best for your situation now and for the future.
For example, if your business has 100 employees, and only 10 of whom are frequently on the phone, you won’t need a plan with “unlimited” minutes for every user. If so, you’re likely to be overpaying for usage you don’t need. On the other hand, a pooled-plan where all your users share minutes, and it doesn’t matter how many users you have, might make more sense. Telzio is the only VoIP provider that offers cost flexibility in this regard.
Perhaps it’s unlimited Call Recording that you need. Does the provider support unlimited recordings or are there additional fees?
Part of the due diligence is to really understand what’s included in the plans and what you’re actually going to be paying for.
Is there a fee to port my number away?
Some providers charge a monthly “portability fee” to keep your numbers portable. Number portability determines whether the number can be transferred out to another provider. A portability fee could be reason enough not to choose a certain provider, based on principle alone.
The FCC mandates that numbers be portable, even when there’s an unpaid balance.
How long is the free trial?
More importantly than asking how long the trial is, is to ask when you need to cancel bybefore you get automatically renewed. Some providers have automatic renewals that kick in just 2 weeks into a 30-day trial, so this is a date to look out for.
How do I cancel my service?
Some providers, unfortunately, make it unnecessarily difficult to cancel your service. Some might require account owners to call in to request cancellation, or worse require a physical letter to be mailed. Unfortunately, these tactics are notorious with some large service providers. Customer reviews can reveal how a provider handles account cancellations.
With Telzio, you can easily cancel your services anytime, right on the dashboard. The ability to cancel service is in plain sight, so you don't have to spend time searching for it.
Other questions to keep in mind:
- Do I need any other service to use your system? (i.e. internet, a landline, SIP trunk)
- What’s your fair usage policy? (for unlimited plans – this could be vague or a specific number of minutes per month)
- How do you store my personal data? (i.e. credit card and billing information)
- Do you keep my call records stored even after I close my account?
Have more questions about VoIP phone systems for your small business? Write us on the chat or send us a note !