What is Enterprise VoIP?
Enterprise VoIP is the highest grade of Voice Over IP telephony services specifically designed to fit the needs of large scale organizations. With Enterprise VoIP systems, organizations can easily scale the service up or down to add or remove any lines without the length and costly process of traditional legacy telephony. Capabilities designed specifically for large enterprise use, such as advanced call routing, call analytics, and mobile phone clients, empower large businesses to always stay connected.
With the option of a cloud service provider to handle all of the heavy lifting, an on-premise system to keep total control in house, or a combination hybrid service, every business can tailor their enterprise VoIP phone system to their needs. All of this while cutting down up to 80% on the cost of a large scale legacy phone service.
How to Choose an Enterprise VoIP Provider:
If you're an enterprise, you already know that scaling up has its advantages and disadvantages. A big risk is if you scale up too fast, you can end up spending way too much money, and if you scale too slowly, you miss opportunities. But with VoIP systems, you can scale at the speed and budget you need, and you can always scale back down if you need less than you thought. Here is a 4 step quick guide when shopping for enterprise phone systems.
Step 1: Determine your telephony budget for the next 1-2 years.
When switching to enterprise PBX VoIP, like making any other changes, there are going to be startup costs. In the case of enterprise VoIP, you may need to buy new phone systems, upgrade your modems or routers, there may even be costs associated with keeping your number. But, you also have to weigh this against the costs of maintaining your existing equipment.
Then, you also have to factor in the opportunity costs, can't be calculated to an exact number, but can certainly weigh one side down. Many enterprise VoIP providers are starting to jack up the prices of legacy contracts –partly because it's expensive to maintain old equipment, and partly because they're hoping you don't know any better and will keep paying. Second, VoIP integrates with a ton of services that let you make more money and save your valuable time. It may take some time and money to make the change, but you'll see more money in your pocket every month once you do.
Step 2: Ensure you have sufficient bandwidth.
VoIP telephony can take up a lot of bandwidth, which is the amount of data that can be downloaded and uploaded at the same time. If you're an enterprise, there's a good chance that you're already getting a premium data plan with your ISP. In addition, you need to make sure you have a QoS router, which is a router that prioritizes real time data (e.g., video and audio) over non-real time data (e.g., web surfing, email). So you need both hardware and service to be capable of supporting your enterprise VoIP system.
Here's a simple calculation: To make ten concurrent VoIP phone calls with good HD sound quality, you need 5-10 MBps up and down. So to make 100 calls at once you'll need 500MBps-1 GBps. Keep in mind, first, that if you have 500 phones that doesn't mean you'll be making 500 calls at once, and that you need the same speed upstream and downstream—most ISP's give you faster downstream than upstream.
All VoIP providers will give you recommendations for how much bandwidth you'll need, based on the amount of lines you need, your equipment configuration, and what routers to get. Many enterprise PBX providers will also provide Internet service as part of the package. In those cases, one provider can ensure that the data goes through their own network whenever possible, rather than though the public Internet.
Know the Difference: On-Premise vs. Hybrid vs. Cloud Hosted
The overwhelming majority of enterprise VoIP providers are cloud-based. Also called “hosted,” it means that the provider has their own data center, which they maintain and upgrade. They provide services to thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of businesses, and have the advantages of scale. When it comes to security, redundancy, and energy efficiency, it’s always a good idea to have a team of dedicated professionals working 24/7 for you.
You’re already familiar with hosted services; any time you’ve checked your email, you’ve used a hosted service. Just like Gmail is hosted on Google’s worldwide network of server farms, VoIP providers have their own servers, which connect via switches to the public Internet and traditional phone network. Your VoIP phone will be able to call every land-line, cell phone, and VoIP provider in the world, just like any other phone.
On-premise is, as the name implies, on property that you own. You might have a room or even an entire floor dedicated to running servers in your office building. With an on-premise IP PBX, you have to purchase your own equipment. A major advantage is that you will have lower operating costs once you buy the equipment. Another advantage is that because you have your own team managing it, you have full control over maintaining and securing it, so that work is always done by people that you trust.
When you have your own IP-PBX on-premise, your service is for the SIP trunks, which is the total capacity to connect to outside calls. You can add and change users by purchasing new IP phones, and you don’t have to pay more for the service if you aren’t making more calls. VoIP providers give you the option of “burst pricing,” so if you need to make a high volume of calls suddenly, you can still make those calls and be charged more for it, rather than not be able to make the calls at all. You can be more economical with your plan because you don’t need to plan for that kind of unexpected demand.
A hybrid system is a mix of the two. It’s designed for businesses that have existing TDM infrastructure that still has a lot of value. The existing analog lines will be integrated into a VoIP system, while new buildings and mobile phones will be able to access the cloud.
This is best suited for older buildings that do not have Ethernet plugs available in every office, or a business so large it isn’t practical to replace every phone with an IP phone. One favorite application is to have internal communications in an office continue to use the existing legacy PBX, but connect the different sites via IP. A company with established offices in many different countries would benefit most from this type of solution.
Questions to ask a Prospective Enterprise VoIP Service Provider:
- Why Your Company and Not Another?
For about 90-99% of the service, one VoIP provider is about the same as another. You can expect most of the same features, a similar price point, and hopefully you’ll never need to talk to customer service for any length of time once you get up and running. But the small percent can make a big difference. One provider might have exclusive features, or a special graphic user interface, or a type of app that no one else has. Ask what makes them stand out.
- What Will My First Two Weeks of Enterprise VoIP Look Like?
When you get a new service, you might have so many new features that you’ll get overwhelmed. Focus more on the basics in the first month or two, then look into their web site or YouTube channel to learn more advanced features. You’ll have to set up things like voicemail and the auto-attendant right out of the gate, so make sure you can handle how these features work, because they might be different than the system you’re used to.
- What New Enterprise-Class Features Should I Learn About?
Once things are humming along, you’ll need to learn about the more advanced features. It might integrate with a popular CRM, work with social media, have a conference call feature, there’s too many to list. So be ready for round two.
- How Reliable is the Service, and What Recovery Plans Do You Have in Place?
Your VoIP provider of choice should have redundant backups, and be able to handle a situation without loss of service. Natural disasters and directed attacks against a provider can cripple a data center. Ask what measures they have to handle these unforeseen circumstances. You can also look on social media to see if, and then how, they had to deal with previous outages.
- What Will I Have to Live Without Once I Make The Switch to VoIP?
Once you migrate to enterprise VoIP, it may be curtains for some of your existing equipment and some services may not be compatible without an adapter. Fax machines are a casualty, but you might have to reconfigure your alarm systems or your overhead paging system. Find out what works and what doesn’t, and if you need to keep using the equipment you have, see how you can adapt it to your new system.
Key Benefits and Features of Enterprise VoIP Phone Systems:
- Real-time Scaling
Enterprise VoIP is ready when you are. If you have a hiring frenzy or a huge layoff period, VoIP can scale up or down in on-demand with a click of a button. You never have to worry about paying for a service you won’t use or being unprepared for a spike in demand.
- Empowering and Managing a Remote Workforce
Both apps and IP phones can connect to enterprise phone systems and get all the services you use at your desk. You’ll even have the same outbound caller ID. Features like Find Me/Follow Me ensure that no matter where you are, or which device, you’re never out of touch.
- Advanced Call Routing
On the other hand, if you are in a position where you don’t want to be interrupted, enterprise VoIP has a host of features that let you concentrate on what’s in front of you. You can manually set a phone to “Do Not Disturb” mode, or you can set custom hours and rules for calls. You can set some calls to go to another colleague, and others to go straight to voicemail, and some can always get through no matter what.
- Integration with Salesforce and Other CRM Providers
With VoIP, because you’re already using the Internet, you can integrate and sync with other cloud-based services. To name a few, that includes CRM services, social media, collaboration apps, recruitment, accounting, and email.
Handy Enterprise VoIP Terms to Know:
- Concurrent: At the same time. How many phone calls you can make at once is the number of concurrent calls, and is also referred to as “concurrent channels.” If you have ten phones and you only use one at a time, you need one channel.
- ISP: Internet Service Provider. This is usually your cable, phone company, or any other network service.
- Upstream: How fast data can go from the client (that’s you!) to the server.
- Downstream: How fast data can be downloaded or streamed to your computer. Streaming video services require a lot of download speed.
- Symmetric/Asymmetric: Whether download speed and upload speed are the same, or one is faster than the other. For proper two-way communications with either video or audio only, you need symmetric speeds.
- IVR or Auto-Attendant: Called a phone tree by laypersons, this is the computerized guide that routes inbound calls to the right agent.
- Redundancy: Also known as a backup by laypersons, this refers to having more than one copy of a file or more than one data center. Bi-coastal redundancy means that there are two server farms, one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast.