A hosted PBX is the most appealing unified communications business phone solution for organizations that operate in multiple locations. It’s known for being easy to manage and deploy, and a hosted PBX solution improves productivity.
We have built a series of questions to help you evaluate a range of hosted PBX providers. Build your list and then vet against ours as you evaluate providers.
Does your potential provider have collaboration features like audio conferencing, document sharing, and screen sharing? What features do they have that support remote work? Do they have basic features such as Find Me, Follow Me, Hunt Groups, or Voicemail to Email (also called Visual Voicemail)? Are their apps smartphone optimized? If the answer to that last question is no, then that’s a big red flag because workers absolutely must connect easily when away from the office.
Before you start searching for a hosted PBX service provider, make a list of the most important features you absolutely must have. This will help you eliminate choices right off the bat. It’s also important to think about what functionality you may need to have in the future as your business continues to grow, especially if you’re planning to have employees working from home or adding more locations eventually. Scalability and remote work can’t be taken for granted.
Can your potential provider evaluate your existing phones? This is an important question— helping you evaluate your current handsets to salvage those business phone investments is the sign of an experienced provider.
And here are a few related but important questions: can they work with you to leverage existing analog-style phones that you have already installed at branch or remote offices? Legacy telephony systems don’t have to be discarded. In fact, legacy telephony systems and equipment can be supported when they are connected to a hosted system using VoIP. Can your potential provider list client references who have hybrid deployments? Also, which hosted PBX features will still work for the offices using legacy analog equipment with a new hosted PBX service?
Ask your potential provider if they have an online portal to modify or add services yourself. If you’re a start-up owner expecting a lot of growth or if you’re in a seasonal business, the ability to modify your service is very important. Do you have to modify via ticketing? How long will it take—minutes or days?
And when it comes to scalability, does your potential provider have the necessary flexibility for adding capacity when needed? Will you get a discount for volume as you grow?
Make sure you explore the history of your provider. How many years have they been doing business in Canada? Can you be confident your service will be there in the future? Does your potential provider have a list of client success stories, testimonials, or basic client references? This is key. Speaking to those who have received service can give you an honest and impartial opinion of their experience.
Here’s an important reality: there is constant news of mergers and acquisitions within the telecommunications industry. There are also accounts of low-quality service providers who get their businesses started inexpensively and then go out of business very quickly. It’s important to sniff out a flash-in-the-pan provider or one that is a takeover target.
Ask your potential provider where their support team is located. Are they in Canada? Whether yes or no, which time zone are they in? Are they offshore? Can they handle both French and English support requests?
Is 24/7 support part of their offer? If not, that’s a problem. You may be delivering solutions that require strict SLAs with your own clients. How can you deliver quality solutions if your provider is not there 24/7? Can they share their standard escalation procedures?
Will you have a dedicated account manager? The answer to this should be yes. Work with a provider who ensures that you have a specific person assigned to your account.
What is their sales strategy? Are they working with you to develop a long-term strategy—one that will grow with your business—or do they just want to quickly quote and get you to sign on the dotted line?
A second or third tier provider won’t necessarily have their own footprint in your area. Remember that in Canada, most scenarios allow you to keep your phone numbers when you switch providers. Even more important is to not cancel your service before you switch to the new provider. Tell your new phone provider which numbers are being kept and ported over. Porting fees should be part of any discussion.
The most reputable providers want you to have the ability to support your local telephone numbers. Ask them about their porting process. It should be a seamless one without downtime.
What are the hidden fees? And what was included in the monthly fees of the initial quote? Ask if they charge compliance fee, administrative fees, or what some providers label as recovery fees for account management, that are over and above what you would see in the quote. Are these identified in the quote or do you have to consider them separately?
When comparing potential providers, ask about the setup costs. The monthly per user/per month fees may appear low because you’re not considering the setup fees.
How many analog devices will you be using? This may impact your monthly cost. Request a detailed onsite survey.
Keep in mind that exceptions can be costly. For example: international call rates. Connection fees, per-minute fees, and service fees add up quickly.
You need to take a serious look at your network and look for a provider who can help you gauge the capacity to handle a potential increase in usage. Remember that usage increase is to some extent expected. More apps are relying on cloud computing to perform their functions, with more bandwidth necessary.
And of course, you should ask yourself how many users you will be hiring over the next year. The more users, the more bandwidth you’ll need.
Your internet connection might need a significant upgrade to handle the extra load of video calls. Have you ever considered a media assessment?
What does a fully managed hosted PBX look like? Compare this to an over-the-top service where your existing internet connection is leveraged. If either one of those elements is insufficient for the extra load placed on them by a Cloud PBX Phone system, then additional equipment might be required.
Ask if the service provider is offering a QoS (quality of service) in the service part of its package. Ideally, with the right provider, remote support is included and they will suggest for voice-over-data traffic to be prioritized on an IP connection by traffic shaping to ensure that call quality is optimal. Voice matters to your business. Ask your provider for a quote on a fully managed private dedicated connection with a PoE switch that they control from end to end to control call quality.
And finally, ask how quickly your potential provider can update your phone system, keep upfront costs low, and give you more time to focus on your business, such that your goals are supported by the right technology.
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