For the small business owner, having a phone system that effectively and efficiently routes calls properly is essential to projecting a professional image. Smaller businesses can now compete with their larger competitors with the professionalism that a well-planned system can provide.Today, voice and data traffic often share the same mode of transport on a converged network. IP-based telephony is fast becoming the new standard due to its lower operating costs and the ability to leverage an existing data network. These cost savings make having a sophisticated phone system more affordable for those smaller businesses that otherwise would have been left to use standard phone lines over the public switched telephone network.The advanced technology that the sophisticated phone provide allows the smaller business to expand beyond their immediate location. Since an IP-based phone system provides a way for a mobile workforce to be connected to the office, a business can now have employees virtually anywhere in the world. This opens up the business to easier ways of expansion at virtually no extra cost. If a business is headquartered in Dallas but would like to expand to New York, they simply allow the remote employee to access the business phone system over a virtual private network. This allows the employee to have an extension on the business phone system without having to be in the same location. Not only is this low cost, but also provides the business with a wider pool of potential employees to select from.An IP-based phone system can either be a virtual one that is hosted and maintained by a third-party vendor, or an on-site solution that’s maintained and administered by the business owner. The hosted solution provides a very low maintenance way for the small business owner to have a sophisticated system that can route calls with an auto attendant, provide voicemail, music on hold, and conferencing. Each option has its strengths and weaknesses and the final decision should be based on the needs of the business.An on-site solution usually requires someone within the business with knowledge on administration and repair. This requires the business owner to maintain personnel that can provide this maintenance and administration. For those businesses that have an IT department this may be a viable solution. For those without an IT department, a hosted solution would probably be a better option. This way the business owner is not concerned about the day-to-day operation of the phone system. In most cases an agreement can be reached with the vendor to perform all moves adds and changes as well as maintenance at a reasonable monthly cost.When negotiating a contract for maintenance or day-to-day support, a service level agreement should be included so that response time on the part of the vendor is guaranteed to be within reasonable time frames should an outage occur. Without a service level agreement the vendor is free to respond in a time they deem acceptable and this may not be an acceptable time frame for the business owner. Knowledgeable support is essential for the daily operation of the business phone system. This way when there are changes needed to the system, or if there are issues they can be resolved quickly. Nothing will give customers a bad experience more than the inability to communicate with the business. If the entire system is continually experiencing downtime or not working properly, the loss in potential revenue could be substantial.Before selecting a business phone system, speak with qualified vendors and ask questions. The more the vendor understands your business and how it operates the better able the vendor will be able to determine which phone system is the right solution for your particular business. Factors such as call volume, number of employees, and any advanced features that are needed will play a large role in the final choice. Additionally, a network assessment should be performed to ensure that your current network set up can handle the additional bandwidth usage. Understanding IP telephony traffic is key in building a network that can adequately process phone calls in addition to normal data traffic. At is essential that any vendor offering a solution be well-versed in network configuration for an IP telephony environment. Without this knowledge, you could end up with a business phone system the continually has issues such as phone calls with poor audio quality or calls not being processed of all.An IP based business system can take your small business to another level. Customers will hear a professional greeting when calling in and the auto attendant will route calls without requiring human intervention. This gives potential clients confidence in your professionalism and ability and gives them the same experience as if they were dealing with a larger company. Not only will it improve your company’s image, but it will also provide you with a way to expand your business you never thought possible.
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