As the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) market broadens, there will be plenty of choices available to accounting firms and their clients. That means great opportunity to make the right decision or the wrong one.
If you are your firm’s go-to person on internal technology or if clients look to you for technology advice, bear in mind that while VoIP typically cuts costs by digitizing phone calls messages so they can be sent over computers, you can lose money or spend more than needed by making the wrong implementation choice.
While VoIP is slowly becoming the installation of choice at many new business operations, it also is proving particularly worthwhile when added at existing businesses, which have multiple locations, traveling staffers or telecommuter employees. and already use either a local or wide area network. Typically these companies can keep all their existing telephony features while they add the ability to make interstate calls for free.
The best solution at existing business locations is to use existing phone wires within the main office and VoIP for calls between locations, according to buyerzone.com, one of several Web sites with a host of VoIP installation information. This combination works particularly well at businesses that have relatively new telecom equipment.
In many cases, companies’ existing Private Branch Exchange (PBX) internal phone systems can be VoIP-enabled with new software and some minor hardware additions. That approach means considerable savings over installing an entirely new system.
However, buyerzone.com warns that some vendors, particularly those whose background is in data networking, sell VoIP-only systems, and may try to discourage customers from using a combination of VoIP and traditional technology systems.
Also watch out for vendors that simply add VoIP to existing networks whether or not they’re fully ready to support voice traffic. Buyerzone notes that those vendors may later charge for upgrades if the customer decides that the call quality falls short of expectations.
After looking at as many buying guides as possible, the next obvious step in shopping for VoIP is to visit licensed and certified resellers. While they will no doubt push their own vendors’ products, they should provide a point of reference when you look at offerings from other vendors.
There are plenty of VoIP buying guides vendor listings on the Internet to help you proceed with your shopping. Most also link to rudimentary VOIP installation guides. The publishers of VoIP vendor/buying guides and companion materials include:
- buyerzone.com at www.buyerzone.com/telecom-equipment/voip-phone-systems/bg-voip-phone-systems-intro/;
- VTech at www.vtechphones.com/vtechui/guide/dsp_voip_guide.cfm;
- Telephony World-- www.telephonyworld.com/iptelep/voipguide.htm;
- VOIP News -- www.voip-news.com/bg/buyguide.htm;
- Ziff Davis at www.webbuyersguide.com,
- Network Computing magazine www.networkcomputing.com.
When comparing vendors’ different systems, investigate the details carefully. As buyerzone notes, “Exactly what makes up a ‘complete’ system varies from vendor to vendor, so be sure you are comparing equivalent systems” However, as in implementing any new technology, plan for the future and consider implementing more VoIP capacity than you now need. That may be more cost effective than making expansions later.
Also, check with your state utility commission or some other regulatory body to make sure the vendors are licensed and therefore more likely to be bonded and covered by insurance.