Buying a new phone system is never an easy thing to do, and now that traditional lines and services are disappearing and being replaced by VoIP, it can be even more confusing! The sheer amount of choice is daunting, and it’s tempting to just go with the easiest option. However, that could leave you with an expensive, lightly-featured phone system on a long-term contract. Here are ten key points that will help you in deciding what’s important when you buy your new VoIP phone system …
1) Is my current PBX in a contract?
When you purchased or started leasing your telephone system five to ten years ago, you signed a contract covering supply and support of that system and the lines that went with it – under specific ‘terms’ and ‘conditions’. It’s important, however, that you know when those contracts end! You’ll also need to know if there are any ‘auto-renewal’ conditions that mean you must cancel within a specific time-frame, otherwise, you may ‘roll-over’ into another extended term before you can get out of the contract without a financial penalty.
Contract status is critical! Confirming your contract status should be the first step in the planning process to replace your old phone system. If Foxhall gets through major parts of the planning and migration, only to find that you are still in a contract – you could be charged a significant penalty fee if you continue!
Once you get through this check, Foxhall Solutions will either proceed with planning the install of your new system – or – we set a date for you to advise your supplier that you do not want your contracts to renew, and then after that date, we’ll proceed with the new phone system install (under friendlier terms & conditions that allow both of us to sleep at night!).
2) How much does VoIP cost?
The capital & ownership costs of a new phone system depend entirely on how many phone-users you have, and the number of simultaneous calls that your system must make & take. It also depends on how much work needs to be done to make your computer network ‘voice aware’ and what speed & type of Internet service you can get at your offices.
Foxhall’s experts will quote a bespoke phone system solution for your business, taking all relevant factors into account. What we can guarantee, is that it will be far cheaper to run over its lifetime, than previous ‘Digital’ PBX systems, and also cheaper to own than ‘hosted VoIP’ solutions that contract you to ‘rental’ payments for each phone you have, over three to five-year terms. It might be tempting to go with a hosted VoIP offering that quotes a fixed monthly rental cost per desk. However, that will end up very expensive over the contract period when compared to the purchase of an IP-PBX server.
Foxhall Solutions prefers to offer ‘on-premises’ solutions, rather than ‘hosted systems’, as these offer more flexibility and are far less costly during their operational lifetime. See this Blog that explains the difference … Hosted VoIP v’s on-premise IP-PBX.
3) What new features will I get with my VoIP system?
Besides the lower cost of ownership, VoIP provides some nice new features to help your business. Some popular examples of these are:
- The new generation phones are more user-friendly, having LCD labelling and fewer buttons than were needed on the old digital handsets.
- Our VoIP systems have app’s that run on IOS and Android devices so that your mobiles can become an active part of the phone system. This removes call costs between you and your mobile staff.
- Voicemails can be forwarded to workstations or mobiles as e-mail attachments.
- Users can log in to a web-based ‘portal’ to configure/divert their phone extension and look at call history, voicemails, and use click-to-dial features.
- Call recording can be applied either as an always-on facility, or an on-demand feature triggered on and off by the extension user.
- If you run a call centre, then VoIP phone systems will provide advanced call queueing features, as well as comprehensive call and Agent reporting.
- VoIP phones are able to integrate with ‘Customer Relationship Management’ [CRM] applications – to allow click-to-dial from the CRM database, and pop-up of customer data on receipt of an incoming call.
- Another popular feature is being able to use the extension web-portals for instant messaging and video collaboration/conferencing within a company Workgroup or Team.
4) What kind of cabling am I going to need?
Modern VoIP phone-sets use cat.5e or cat.6 data cabling and RJ45 plugs and sockets, just like your computers do. This means that there is no longer a need for separate voice and data cabling and networks. Network switches with ‘Power over Ethernet’ (PoE) can power each phone down the data cable connection.
Ideally, you need to use separate cable runs for PC’s and phones, but if you have situations where there is only one data socket at a desk, it is possible to run a cable from that data socket to the phone, and then connect your PC to a second port of the 2-port network switch in the phone itself.
It’s also possible to use software (soft) phones that run on PC’s and laptops, with corded or Bluetooth cordless headsets. In this case, the VoIP system is using the same Local Area Network cabling or WiFi as your computer, to connect the softphone to the phone system. If you’re moving into a new office and need cabling, then contact us and we can arrange that for you.
5) Which are the best VoIP phones for me?
Foxhall recommends Yealink VoIP phones, due to their manufacturing quality, their feature set, ease of use, and compatibility with the 3CX and Yeastar IP-PBX systems we sell.
Yealink phones can be configured quickly and easily from the ‘Provisioning’ modules of these IP-PBX systems. They also have additional features that allow us to tailor local features to make life easier for users. Deployment is faster – and it’s easier to make changes to all the phones from a single template.
The Yealink T41S is our recommended ‘work-horse’ phone with LCD key labelling and pagination, making it easy for users to transfer calls to colleagues – while knowing who’s free to take the call.
Yealink also provides a DECT cordless range of phones that are useful in workshops or factories, where phone extensions need to be mobile.
6) What are the most common problems with VoIP?
If your VoIP vendor has not taken network design factors into consideration, then it is very likely that you’ll experience poor call quality due to the phone calls ‘fighting’ data on your network. VoIP calls don’t take much bandwidth, but data downloads and file-transfers do! Call quality issues are most likely to show when there is a combination of a high number of calls, and a lot of data flow on your network.
No matter what type of VoIP solution you go with, it’s important that we design and/or upgrade your computer network to give the VoIP traffic priority. Call quality is then assured under all network conditions. This may involve us working with your IT team or contractor so that we can optimise your Internet connection and network for both voice and data.
Some VoIP system vendors ship phones for self-install. Contrary to what they might say, installing a reliable VoIP system is usually not that simple! Foxhall’s Engineers will always attend site to carry out the install of your phone system to make sure it is connected and configured correctly. We will also provide basic user-guides and provide training to users – especially highlighting advantages & differences between the new system and the old PBX we are replacing.
7) What happens to the phones if the Internet or power goes down?
There are various options to cover loss of power or Internet at your office.
Loss of mains power will cause problems no matter what – But – an Uninterruptible Power Supply unit (UPS), can be installed centrally, to maintain power to the; router, network switch, IP-PBX server and phones – so that the system keeps functioning through a short outage, or, will at least, function long enough for you to make alternate arrangements if the outage persists.
There are routers that can take two or more Internet connections and provide redundancy in case of a line or broadband failure. It is also notable that broadband services are usually delivered to your offices on standard ‘functional’ analogue lines. These lines can be connected to your IP-PBX using a ‘gateway’ module so that the analogue line becomes a fallback trunk in the case of Internet failure.
8) What happens to our business phone numbers that our customers all know?
Foxhall will work with our carrier partner iHub, to ‘port’ any numbers that you want to keep for your business. The porting process will transfer a number, or groups of numbers, associated with analogue and/or ISDN lines to the VoIP service we sign you up to. Calls to these numbers will then be delivered to your phone system through ‘virtual’ line channels in your Internet service. These channels are called ‘SIP Trunks’. The ported phone numbers will be associated with your SIP Trunk account and become Direct Dial Inward (DDI) numbers that we configure routing to individual extensions, groups of extensions or call queues in your new phone system.
Foxhall will also set up call diversions so that you can use your new VoIP system during the one to two-week number porting process. This allows you to still get your calls, and to get familiar with your new system, without having to keep your old phones and system live. Inbound routes will be pre-set so that as soon as the numbers are ported and become live DDI’s on the SIP Trunk group, calls appear on the new system. The porting process will conveniently, cease the lines that the numbers ported from.
9) What happens to our business on installation day?
Foxhall Solutions will set up your new phone system, able to make internal and outbound calls through SIP Trunks over the Internet. Initially, inbound calls will still be received on existing [old] phone-sets across the business. Once all new phone-sets have been deployed, connected and tested, we then implement pre-requested call diversions at the exchange onto DDI numbers associated with the new system, de-install the old phones, and then turn off the old phone system.
The bottom line is that we minimise disruption to your staff and business because the old and new systems can co-exist right up to the point where the call diversions are turned on. Number porting itself, may cause a small disruption, because the number can be out of service for just a few minutes.
10) Who is an ideal customer for Foxhall’s VoIP solutions?
VoIP is an ideal technology for any size and type of business that needs to keep in touch with its staff and customers, and for any business that wants to reduce costs associated with its telecommunications.
From next year (2020), BT will no longer sell ISDN lines, and their primary business phone system offerings are already VoIP (BT “Cloud Phone” and “Cloud Voice”). They plan to phase out support of ISDN altogether by 2025. This doesn’t mean you should wait until 2025 to make the change though. If you are already out of contract, you WILL get immediate business and cost benefits by migrating your phone system to VoIP and will get further benefits, when you look beyond BT’s offerings.
Let’s have a chat …
Foxhall Solutions offer a full and free audit of your telecom’s needs to determine what phone system will fit your needs best. Use our Contact Us page to request a call and set up a meeting today …