1) Do I have to change the configuration of my firewall or do I have to replace it?
If your hosted VoIP provider is suggesting that you replace your firewall or router, they are trying to get around the limitations of their system. VoIP phone lines were never designed to go “inside” your network, where it has to go through your firewall and compete with your PCs, laptops and other devices for bandwidth; when it does, you WILL have problems with sound quality.
The only way to get around this limitation is to purchase expensive routers that compensate for the extreme delay than can be introduced when a VoIP call has to navigate through a firewall. Additionally, you should not have to open holes in your firewall to get VoIP working. That’s another sign that your provider is doing a work-around to try and compensate for the limitations of the system he’s selling you. Don’t go for it!
Buyer Beware! Companies that sell phone systems and do not install and support computer networks – which is what your VoIP system is running on – are often NOT qualified to recommend or install a VoIP phone system for your office. One of the biggest reasons for VoIP failure, poor sound quality, slowed Internet speeds, etc., is that the person selling you a VoIP system does not understand how to properly assess your company’s firewall, routers, network traffic, Internet connection speeds, as well as a host of other factors, to make sure their phone system will work as advertised in YOUR SPECIFIC ENVIRONMENT. That’s because they’re phone system sales guys, not network engineers. Of course they’ll tell you they’re qualified to do this – so be sure to ask them if they’ll put their money where their mouth is with a money-back guarantee like we do. You can read about our 100% no-small-print money-back guarantee later in this document.
2) How many data centers do you have and are they geographically disbursed?
If the answer is only one, run away! What happens if their ONE data center goes down? Or, more commonly, what happens when the VoIP equipment inside the data center goes down? Your business is without a phone until they get their systems back online! Insist on a provider that has at least 2 redundant data centers that are states away from each other to lower the risk of a natural disaster wiping out both data centers at once. Ideally, they should have 4 or more spread throughout North America.
3) What was the uptime last year? What’s your guarantee for uptime?
If it’s anything less than 99.999%, find a different provider. And don’t just take them at their word; ask for documentation proving the reliability of their network in the previous year. If they can’t even do that, don’t buy their system! Further, if they can’t or WON’T guarantee a 99.999% uptime, shop elsewhere.
NOTE: Uptime is the system’s ability to make and receive calls. If an individual office happens to be down due to an Internet outage, this does not affect the overall reliability of the system because the system was ready and able. The VoIP carrier we use had a 100% uptime over the past 18 months at the time of writing this report, so don’t let anyone tell you that 100% uptime is “impossible.”
4) If my phone is unreachable do you have automatic failover to another phone?
If your provider’s system isn’t constantly monitoring the status of your network, VoIP system and VoIP phones, you should consider going with another provider. If your Internet goes down, or even a single phone stops working, the system should know that within a few minutes and automatically forward the calls to a predetermined destination (like a cell phone or another office location).
5) Do you monitor my phones and system 24/7/365 for any potential issues?
If you have to tell your provider the phones aren’t working, then find another provider. Any quality vendor should be monitoring and maintaining your system for you, using remote management tools. As we just outlined in question 4, the system should be self-regulating and know if a phone or system is offline and automatically make routing adjustments to ensure calls coming in are answered properly. Then, a technician should contact you to address the problem. If you are missing calls, move on to a different system.
6) Will our telephone features be the same when we move to VoIP?
Don’t assume this! Even basic features like call forwarding might not be included! You would be amazed to find out how many VoIP systems fail to have the most basic features, such as call forwarding. You should insist on a hands-on demonstration in order to see the system for yourself and how it will work. This will avoid unpleasant “surprises” after you’ve paid for and installed the new system.
7) Do you offer a money-back guarantee?
If your provider is not willing to back up their claims with a WRITTEN, no-small-print money-back guarantee, free of “weasel out” clauses, look for a vendor that does. Every phone-system sales guy is going to tell you how wonderful their system is and how you won’t experience any problems. If they’re THAT confident, have them guarantee it in writing so you’re not stuck paying for a new system that doesn’t work.