A 6-part checklist to setting up VoIP

VoIP technology is hardly a new thing.

In fact, it’s easily the current standard for forward-thinking businesses. But there are plenty of small businesses that have yet to make the move to VoIP. And even if you currently have VoIP phone service, it’s never a bad idea to re-evaluate your current plan to ensure it fully meets your needs.

But this isn’t something you want to plunge into without any prep work. Instead, there are some critical questions you should answer before you make a single change—and that’s what we’re going to cover in this article.

“. . . finding the right VoIP solution for your particular situation can be one of the more complex business IT decisions you’ll face.”PC Mag

Why you need a VoIP plan

Whatever you use for telephone service, either POTS or a VoIP solution, we’re talking about an important part of your business communications.

Even with the rise of email and IMs, there are still plenty of times when the best communication option is still a phone call.

As soon as your SMB graduates beyond the point that a single phone line meets your needs, you have a whole new world of options.

There are all kinds of advanced features available out there, along with providers and plans that run the gamut in terms of service quality and pricing.

The worst thing you can do is just pick one. Instead, we recommend a strategic approach.

Your VoIP-readiness checklist

The checklist below will help you decide exactly what you need and will help ensure the VoIP partner you work with is a good fit for your business.

And if you feel you’d be more comfortable with a little help, reach out to your managed IT services provider. They already know your network and should be able to provide you with consultation and support.

✔ Determine your needs

First things first.

Decide how many users you’ll need VoIP service for and what bare-minimum features you’ll need (like voicemail and the ability to transfer calls).

Why?

The number of users is important because that number will help you hone in on the service plan you’ll need from any VoIP providers you shop. The minimum features are important for a whole different reason.

VoIP services come with a lot of bells and whistles. So many that it’s easy to get lost in the options. Start by deciding what your minimum requirements are so you don’t accidentally talk yourself into advanced features you don’t really need later.

Strategic add-ons are smart. Features that sound nice but don’t really bring value should be avoided.

✔ Decide if you want or need hardware

VoIP phone systems can be entirely software based. If you opt for omitting hardware, you can run your entire phone system with headsets connected individual workstations and/or smartphone apps.

There are pros and cons to this approach.

You’ll definitely save money, but there’s a learning curve, too. And some of your employees may not be crazy about the idea of wearing a headset instead of picking up a receiver, which feels familiar.

✔ Make sure your internet connection is up to par

Most likely, your internet connection is just fine for VoIP service. Most business plans provide more than enough bandwidth to support voice calls as well as standard internet traffic.

That said, what if your internet traffic is higher than the average? Or what if you have a particularly slow business plan for internet service? Or what if you have a bandwidth cap?

Know what you’re working with before you start researching specific options. If you need to upgrade your bandwidth first, take care of that.

✔ Decide on a budget

Make note of the fact that so far, we haven’t suggested you start comparison shopping. There’s a good reason for that. The first four items on this checklist should all happen before you start shopping—including setting your budget.

There are options all over the map in terms of features, requirements and budget. Decide what you’re actually prepared and able to spend before you give serious consideration to any options.

“Your business might be small, maybe even downright tiny, but moving to VoIP can give you the power and presence of a much larger company.”Forbes

✔ Comparison shop VoIP providers

Once you know all of that, then it’s time to shop.

Do your homework. Don’t get lured into anything by one slick-talking sales rep or one particularly dazzling website. Look at reviews, compare features, and read the fine print.

Make your final buying decision as dispassionately as possible.

✔ Create a transition plan

Finally, when everything else is done and in place, create a transition plan. You won’t want to move to your new VoIP service during a busy season or on the day of the week when you get the most phone traffic.

Plan to switch things over during a slower time, and have people on hand to test the new system to make sure everything is working the way you expect it to.

A final suggestion

VoIP services are a great option for SMBs, but like all business technology, you’ll get the most out of VoIP when you have solid support. If you don’t already have a managed IT services partner, we suggest that you think about getting one.

Not only will that make the switch to VoIP easier, but it will also benefit your business across the board.