Phone Systems for Small Business - 8 Criteria in Choosing a IP Phone System

RSS Author RSS     Views:N/A
Bookmark and Share          Republish
Shoretel's CEO, John Combs, gave the keynote address recently at IT Expo West, providing very relevant counsel to IT managers and business owners upgrading to a voice over IP (VOIP) phone system. He used the MAC iPhone as an analogy, to illustrate how new technology can quickly come to the fore in an industry. With a VOIP business phone system, IP technology is poised to dominate correspondingly over existing analog (TDM) systems. VOIP telephone systems can significantly improve user adaption rates, which can also improve productivity in an organization.

An IP phone system enables the collaborative and reach aspects of unified messaging technology. The VOIP telephone system frequently provides features such as teleconferencing, unified messaging (voicemail in email), web collaboration, mobile integration (cell phones), presence (to locate employees quickly), instant messaging, video conferencing and business process integration (customer relationship management, sales, accounting, etc.).

What sets apart one vendor's small business phone systems from the next? Mr. Combs suggests a an exceptionally structured evaluation process when implementing office telephone systems with VOIP for business. He suggests forming an evaluation team of key players and using 8 evaluation criteria for selecting new small business phone systems:
  • Usability. There must be an onsite demonstration including the exact hardware to be deployed. It is often advisable to have two or more vendors demonstrate side-by-side, or on the other hand to install alternative prototypes at two separate company offices and then exchange systems and locations to see which one users preferred.

  • Reliability. What is the probable failure rate, based on actual deployed systems using Bellcore/Telecordia standards? Mr Combs pointed out that academic failure rates are not sufficient for confidence in deploying a new system. You don't want to the the "guinea pig" for a vendor's prototype or Beta testing.

  • Availability. Make sure you understand the impact of downtime on the business based on the planned configuration. How many points of failure exist in the vendor's configuration?

  • Scalability. What are the costs should you need to double the planned configuration?

  • Architecture. What design philosophy was used in the system? Was it built according to a plan or technology patched together from disparate systems and conflicting architectures?

  • Total Cost of Ownership. Most of the time upfront costs (hardware, network and implementation) come to only 20% of the overall system expenditure in the long term. Operating costs (training, move/add/change, system management, network and utilities) can easily add up to 80% over the system lifetime. What estimates are available from vendors being considered?

  • Vendor Financial Status. Make sure the vendor has a solid balance sheet, or be prepared for support issues should they encounter financial difficulty.

  • Vendor References. Your team should contact their industry associates for information relevant to the vendors being considered Did they make a wise decision with this vendor? Who else do they know using the system? How do actual costs compare to vendor estimates? Is it easy for IT staff to support? Are there any "raving fans?"

  • When choosing to upgrade small business phone systems, the usual choice is a VOIP business phone system. A careful evaluation of each vendor's offerings and above all the presence of "raving fans" for any VOIP business phone system are critical in getting all the benefits of VOIP for business.

    Jim Green is a telecommunications broker, assisting his clients in both finding the best T1 service provider as well as recommending local providers of all the most popular VOIP and TDM small business phone systems.

    Report this article
    Occupation: Internet Marketing
    My professional career has been spent largely in IT and Telecommunications. I am currently a broker for Internet and phone carrier services with one of the largest master agencies in the US. My IT work has been in programming, website design and Internet Marketing and has focused recently on Internet Advertising for MLM.

    Bookmark and Share

    Ask a Question about this Article