What is Hosted VoIP
Anyone who’s ever owned a business knows how important a robust and capable phone system is to their bottom line. If clients or customers can’t get through, that may equate to lost revenue. Likewise, too many lines can lead to unnecessary expenses that will add up over time. A proper setup will deliver what you need at a sustainable price.
How you choose to set up your network will have a big impact on the ease at which you can alter your number of lines and add or remove features. For many, a hosted VoIP system is an ideal way to get the features they want at a price that doesn’t break the bank.
Today, we’ll cover what a hosted VoIP system is, how it works, and how to determine whether or not this solution fits your needs.
What is hosted VoIP?
VoIP, or voice over internet protocol, is a technology that allows us to make and receive phone calls over broadband internet instead of standard phone lines. Calls are converted to digital data packets and transmitted over the internet. This technology requires some expensive equipment that may make it seem unattainable to small businesses. Luckily, you’ve got options.
A hosted VoIP system is offered through a third party that handles all the technical aspects for you, and they even provide the hardware you need to make VoIP a reality. There are a number of benefits associated with VoIP, and getting set up may be easier than you think. While you can operate a VoIP phone system yourself, there are big benefits of going with a hosted plan. Let’s look at how hosted VoIP systems work, how they differ from in-house systems, and what kind of features and benefits are associated with them.
How does a hosted VoIP system work?
As a hosted VoIP service uses the internet to connect your business to the outside world, it operates in the same way other internet technologies do. Your VoIP phone is connected to a router, which converts your voice to data packets and transfers them to servers. The servers process those packets and pass them along to their final destination.
As you may have guessed, this process requires a solid internet connection with plenty of bandwidth to work seamlessly. If your connection isn’t up to par, it could result in poor call quality. But if you’ve already got a good internet service provider and plan, this shouldn’t present any problems.
How is Hosted VoIP Different from In-House VoIP?
If you’re thinking of making the switch to VoIP, there isn’t anything stopping you from setting up a system in-house. In fact, this can be a fantastic option for businesses who want a more complete level of control over their service. However, this comes at a high cost that can be prohibitive for smaller companies.
If you choose to set up an in-house system, you’ll have to purchase, install, and maintain all the equipment needed to do so. That can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, depending upon your needs. If your business requires a high level of control or you are setting up a large call center, this may be money well spent. If you have more basic needs, the high cost of VoIP will likely outweigh the benefits.
Another thing to consider is that you’ll require a dedicated space to house equipment if you go with an in-house system. If you don’t have sufficient space, that may equate to an increase in monthly rent payments. This can cause problems if you aren’t in the market to move or increase your current rent.
You’ll also need to decide how you want to handle maintenance and support. Whether you choose to go with a full-time IT professional or contract with a service, the costs of maintaining an in-house VoIP system can get expensive. Full time maintenance will require a salaried employee, and contracting that service can cost you in lost time. Either way, the real time support offered by a hosting service will come in at a much lower price point.
If you choose to relocate your business at any point, you will also have to relocate all of your VoIP equipment yourself. Transporting equipment opens up the possibility that it gets damaged or the turnover doesn’t go as smoothly as expected. Either of these circumstances will cost money to remedy.
There are certainly benefits to hosting your own VoIP system, but if your needs don’t require it, you’ll be better off going with a service to host VoIP for you. It comes with an exhaustive list of features and benefits that should meet most of your needs.
Hosted VoIP features
One thing that makes or breaks any phone service is the ability of the provider to deliver the features we want and need. In this arena, a hosted VoIP system is second to none. Depending on the provider you choose, you should be able to get the same features you had with your landline provider and a whole lot more. Some features commonly offered by most VoIP hosting services include:
- Unlimited calling
- Call routing
- Call screening
- Call forwarding
- Call recording
- Auto attendants
- Three way calling
- Voicemail to text or email
- Video conferencing
- Online fax service
- Priority alerts
- Free local phone number
- Ability to keep existing phone number
This is certainly not an exhaustive list, and the provider you choose may offer all these benefits or more. Choosing the right provider for your needs is the only way to ensure they are met. But don’t choose solely based on the features. There are a number of fantastic benefits great VoIP providers offer.
Hosted VoIP benefits
While both hosted VoIP and traditional phone services offer a similar range of features, choosing to go with a hosted VoIP system for your networking needs delivers a host of benefits that set them above the competition. Here are a few that everyone can get behind.
Clear Voice Quality
Your phone doesn’t do you much good if you can’t hear the person on the other end. Luckily, VoIP offers clearer voice quality when compared to a traditional phone line. The technology has improved to the point where lag and latency are no longer prevalent issues, making VoIP a solid choice for businesses that rely upon crystal clear phone service.
One of the most important parts of any service is the cost. If something is unaffordable, it doesn’t matter much how many benefits they offer. Luckily, hosted VoIP systems are very often cheaper than the alternative. Many hosted VoIP plans come in at a cheaper price point than traditional phone lines, and they run on the internet service you already have.
Another benefit you’ll gain with a hosted VoIP system is that the customer service offered by your host will eliminate the need to hire additional help. VoIP hosts have a whole team of customer and service professionals on staff. That means you won’t have to hire an IT professional to maintain the technology. Whether that’s a dedicated, salaried employee or an on-call provider, you’ll save time and money by having your VoIP hosted.
With hosted VoIP, you can expect access to additional features not offered by your local phone company. That’s due to the fact that the internet is a much more capable technology than traditional phone lines. Whether you’re looking for the ability to route your calls to a cell phone, include video conferencing and calling, or instant messaging, VoIP can provide the features you need to streamline your business operations.
As your business grows, you may find it necessary to make adjustments to your network. Since you can easily make changes to your service, you can add lines and features down the line and you won’t have to pay for unnecessary lines or features. The costs of making those changes with a traditional phone network can add up. Having the ability to easily cut or add them with minimal downtime is a perfect setup for growing companies.
When it comes time to upscale your business location, a hosted VoIP system provides the benefit of portability. Since all your hardware is hosted by your provider, you won’t have to go through the trouble of relocating all your networking hardware and setting it up at the new location. This will make your move much less painful and allow you to plug in and get set up in minimal time.
What you’ll need to get started
Getting set up with a hosted VoIP system is fairly straightforward, but you’ll need to make sure you have a few items figured out before getting started. They won’t break the bank, but they will still represent an investment in your business. Here are some basic things you’ll want to consider before getting started.
A VoIP Provider
If you’re interested in a hosted VoIP system for your business, the first thing you’ll need to do is choose a provider. Hosted VoIP services can differ greatly from one provider to another, but there is one thing they all have in common. They take care of the technology end for you and provide a plethora of features. The difference will be the service they provide, access to certain features, and the big one, cost.
Even though a hosted VoIP system takes care of many costs, you’ll likely have to purchase VoIP ready phones yourself. Since they operate via the internet rather than phone lines, you can’t use a regular phone. VoIP models can be more expensive than traditional phones, but they can also offer much more in terms of features.
VoIP phones range from around $40 to $200 and up, and the price you pay will depend on the features you want. If you want a decent sized screen that provides the ability to video conference, you can expect to buy at the high end of that range. If all you need is a simple phone for making and receiving calls, you can get one at the lower end. Either way, this is a cost that must be factored in.
Solid Internet Service
You’ll also need an internet service capable of handling your VoIP service without dropped calls or poor call quality. The speeds you need will depend on the number of users you have and whether or not you are using video conferencing features.
Since hosted VoIP is so highly reliant on a solid internet connection, choosing a solid internet provider is incredibly important in delivering the results you expect. Make sure they have a strong infrastructure that can deliver solid uptime and the technology that will carry you into the future.
WWT has a robust infrastructure and serves communities across western Wisconsin and Minnesota. Everything you need to support all your internet needs, including your hosted VoIP service. Reach out to learn more about the options available in your area.