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Many small businesses are looking to VoIP-based services in order to save money, gain access to high-end features, or unify a multi-site or at-home worker environment. While such services can give your small business a boost, switching over may end in frustration if your expectations of the new system are not clear and proper planning is not done up front.
Begin by evaluating your current infrastructure and the cost of all required equipment. The following tips can help you as you talk to your provider and make a plan for successful implementation:
1. Consult with your network provider regarding the best connection model to see if VoIP really is the best technical and cost choice for your business.
2. Allocate 100kbps of bandwidth per simultaneous user. Add to that any bandwidth needed for regular Internet or other data traffic (FTP, downloads, e-mail, Web conferencing etc.). Inadequate bandwidth severely affects voice quality.
3. You need an SIP proxy device on your premises. It provides better voice quality, performance monitoring, troubleshooting and automatic fail-over.
4. Using a softphone [a software program], whereby the call is made through a computer, is discouraged due to instability and inherent problems, such as voice quality and one-way audio.
5. If a softphone is used, wired headsets are recommended. Cordless headsets are strongly discouraged due to their poor sound quality.
6. An SIP hardphone [a specialized VoIP phone] requires two IP addresses assigned by your ISP or broadband provider in order to support the PC and the SIP phone at the same time. An alternative is to purchase a small LAN router that can share a single address with the computer and the phone.
7. A backup to your VoIP service is strongly recommended, such as a single-line traditional phone or cellular service in case of power outages.
8. VoIP users should reset (reboot) their VoIP phones every morning before first use. Like computers, VoIP phones need to be cleared out periodically.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Want to improve the way you run your business? Entrepreneurs, academics, and consultants from diverse industries offer practical advice on a variety of topics each business day.
To submit a tip for consideration, first check our archive of previous tips to make sure you're not repeating a tip someone has already contributed. Then send the tip to Small Business channel contributor Michelle Dammon Loyalka. Because of the volume of material she receives, she may not respond to each individual.