Hosted phone systems are swiftly becoming the industry standard in businesses of all sizes. Whether a business is seeking efficient connectivity between multiple sites, simplification or elimination of on-site equipment, or the functionality for auto-attendant and call center capabilities; hosted phones will provide the solution. In many cases, the use of hosted phone systems can also save money over time since there is no on-site switching equipment to be maintained and upgraded as a business grows.
When comparing one hosted phone solution to another, it is important for the decision maker to remember that the overall value of a Hosted PBX goes way beyond the phones and features that seem most tangible. Other elements, such as experienced installation, training, and support can be harder for us to put a value on, so they’re too often the first place that low-price providers will cut costs. It may be hard to see what’s missing when you’re reviewing a quote, but you’ll know it when you’re trying to learn a complex new system – or worse: when something breaks.
The base components of hosted phone systems:
- Phones: There are several brands and models of phones on the market providing different levels of functionality. Phone brand consistency for any particular deployment is critical to the overall operation of the system, so it’s important to use a hosted phone manufacturer who offers a line of products that span the spectrum of sophistication, yet are compatible to each other.
- Cloud Based Platform: This is the central “brain” of your system that provides your phones with their functionality. There are many different operating platforms available for hosted phones. A platform that is not only reliable but offers the versatility to provide complete customization is the most desirable solution to provide maximum functionality from any hosted phone – no matter what the brand.
Because in the past businesses have always bought phone systems as physical products, it’s easy to stop here and assume that the price of your phone system is dictated by these elements alone. If the phones are similar and the feature sets of the cloud-based platform look similar to us, we assume we’re making an apples-to-apples comparison, but there is much more involved in successful deployment of hosted phone systems.
These elements are harder to see, but matter just as much:
There are a number of “soft-side” elements that go into a successful hosted phone system deployment. While less obvious to the person evaluating a phone system proposal, they are labor-intensive and have hard costs. Where two system proposals look similar and offer different costs, examine these elements to see if one provider is cutting corners:
- System Design: Every business is different, with different needs. The right hosted phone system should offer completely customizable functionality and configuration.
- Seamless Deployment or Installation: Time is money and no business should have to incur ‘downtime’ when having any new technology deployed.
- System Monitoring and Support: Since the core of a hosted phone system is off-site, the managed service that provides 24 hour monitoring, automatic updates, and general system maintenance for your phones and platform is critical and should be a strong consideration when selecting a provider.
- Training: With a customized hosted phone system, there are no ‘out of the box’ instructions that address all of the functions possible, and therefore it’s imperative to provide individualized training to insure every client get the most out of the system that has been designed for them.
- Reliability: Network redundancy is a critical value added function of hosted phone deployments. With a redundant network, should an outage occur, hosted phone connectivity is automatically switched to back-up systems, providing a seamless end-user experience.
- Voice Quality: IP Phone systems can be subject to voice quality issues related to network congestion, so it’s important that your provider has a system in place to manage traffic flow and protect call quality.
- General Customer Care: Once a hosted phone system is up and running, it’s important for users to know that there is real person available to answer question, assist with the deployment of additional phones, or to address administrative and billing inquiries.
Don’t fall into the trap of evaluating a service as if it were a product. Hosted phone systems are about much more than features and prices. Make sure to choose a partner with the experience and resources to keep your phones ringing.