There are many benefits to using internet-based business telephone systems for your company's communication needs. These systems offer many advantages over traditional telephony models, including a host of additional features and capabilities, and the cost-saving convenience of running your telephone system through your internet connection, eliminating your traditional phone bill entirely.
However, these telephone systems don't always live up to the promise of their sales pitch, and when they run into problems, they can bring your business to a screeching halt. That's why it's important for business owners and IT managers to familiarize themselves with the ways in which hosted phone systems can fall short of expectations, and learn how those problems can be resolved.
One of the strongest selling points of VoIP business telephone systems, the fact that your telephone data runs through your internet connection instead of conventional phone lines, is also its Achilles' heel. Your connection has a finite amount of bandwidth, which is being used by both your telephone system and your usual internet activity. If these uses combine to exceed the amount of available bandwidth, things start to slow down.
Normally, that's not a big problem; web pages might take a few more seconds to load, or a file download won't finish as quickly, or instant messenger conversations might experience a bit of lag. But VoIP phone systems are very sensitive to these slowdowns, and running out of bandwidth may result in garbled sound quality or even dropped calls. For any business that relies heavily on telephone communication with clients, customers, or suppliers, this sort of malfunction can be devastating.
There are solutions to this problem, if you've chosen the provider of your business telephone systems well. Before setting up your service, your provider should ensure that your system has enough bandwidth to accommodate your normal internet traffic and a VoIP phone setup. They should also ensure that your company's internal network is programmed properly to handle the needs of a VoIP business phone system. Your provider should also offer a QoS (quality of service) feature or device that prioritizes bandwidth usage for your VoIP phone system, throttling back on the bandwidth allotment that other, less sensitive applications receive. Because internet browsing and file downloads will suffer much less from restricted bandwidth than your phone service will, voice prioritization is a vital feature for business systems. Your provider may also recommend a separate internet connection for your telephony needs, so that your phone lines are not competing with other types of internet usage for the same bandwidth.
The Weakest Link: Unreliable Providers
Hosted business telephone systems are only as strong as the providers that carry them. Many of the problems associated with this type of telephone system are the result of understaffed, financially unstable, or otherwise unreliable service providers. For instance, your business may experience call quality problems which your hosted provider cannot successfully resolve because the problem exists at the PSTN (public switch telephone network) gateway, and they have outsourced their PSTN access to another company. You might spend an unreasonable length of time waiting for a response to your support ticket because the technical support department of your provider has insufficient staff to handle their clients' issues. If your provider relies on outsourcing to supply their services, any financial difficulties that your hosting company has may result in interrupted service for you, their client, if they fail to pay their own service providers.
The best solution to this problem is research. Find out more about a hosting company before you commit to allowing them to handle your VoIP business telephone system. Request testimonials or reviews from other clients, and ask whether the hosting company handles all aspects of your service internally, or if they outsource their PSTN gateway access. Due diligence will reveal whether a provider is reliable enough to entrust with your company's telephone system.
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