Factors SMBs Should Consider When Switching to VOIP Telephony

1 - Factors SMBs Should Consider When Switching to VOIP Telephony
2 - Price
3 - Features
4 - Quality
5 - Range of Models
6 - Warranty Coverage
7 - VOIP Compatibility
8 - SIP Offerings for SMBs
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Factors SMBs Should Consider When Switching to VOIP Telephony

Compared with legacy telephony, VOIP technology provides a richer communications experience, and SIP phones are an integral part of delivering that experience.

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Although SMBs tend to be price-conscious, SIP phones are not a capitalized investment, unlike legacy phone systems. To get full value from VOIP, businesses should consider that the quality of their phones has a major impact on the user experience. In that regard, additional drivers listed on the upcoming slides will come into play, but it will be up to businesses to decide if each vendor's pricing reflects the value of their SIP phones based on these collective attributes.

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At a minimum, you want comparable features to your legacy phones, but with SIP phones, you should expect more. Core features that provide a good everyday end-user VOIP experience include programmable keys, where VOIP is more flexible and feature-rich than legacy systems, and a high-quality display screen, where the size, backlighting and ease of navigation are key. VOIP is the entry point into multimedia communication, making this feature a key value driver for moving beyond legacy phones. Other features to watch for include multi-line support, support for other audio modes like speakerphones and headset jacks, along with volume controls for each, and power and connectivity options, like the ability to support Power over Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet speed.

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Generally, you get what you pay for, but for SIP phones, there are two specific aspects to consider: first, how well the phone delivers a quality experience for employees—in terms of durability and not needing frequent repairs or parts replaced; and second, projecting a professional image—which is important for SMBs and is reflected by aesthetics such as color, ergonomics and modern design.

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Range of Models

SIP phones come in many varieties, and end-user needs will vary by use case. For core everyday needs, vendors will usually offer a range, starting with entry-level phones providing basic features and a low price point. From there, you can add features at higher price points, with models targeted more at team leaders or executives. Three other use cases should be considered, depending on your environment as well as your plans for deploying VOIP—cordless SIP phones, home-based employees and headsets.

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Warranty Coverage

When thinking about quality, it's easy to assume SIP phones will always work as they did from the beginning. After all, there are no moving parts and most of the features are software-based. However, everyday wear and tear—phones falling off the desk, coffee spills, power spikes, electronic failures, etc.—takes a toll. Warranty coverage is an important consideration because SIP phones are not built or intended to last more than 10 years like legacy phone systems.

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VOIP Compatibility

Never before have SMBs been able to buy SIP phones along with VOIP service at the same time. Most SMBs favor the hosted model, and today, there is a wide range of cloud providers for VOIP. Some will be familiar, such as your incumbent carrier or a major cable operator. Others, though, will be much smaller, newer and less well-known. Many specialize in hosted VOIP for SMBs but are not fully compatible with every SIP phone vendor. This will have implications for the VOIP features the service can actually support. As such, if certain VOIP features are must-haves for your SIP phones, you have to make sure the hosted provider can, in fact, support them.

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SIP Offerings for SMBs

VTech officials say business phones require some essential features, such as Power over Ethernet and auto provisioning. In addition to easy installation, SMB users should also be able to manage multiple calls with advanced call handling features and support for up to two SIP lines. Pictured are VTech's new SIP business phones.

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