Implementing a hosted PBX telephone system in place of a traditional service is a fiscally wise move, and it allows for added mobility among employees. But, how does a business go about choosing a hosted PBX provider? It’s a big decision considering that the provider will be entrusted with maintaining the most important part of the company’s communications link – the telephone service. Since many companies now offer hosted PBX services, each with its own features, costs and service quality, it is critical that you ask the right questions before deciding which hosted PBX service to use. Here are some considerations.
Cost of Hosted PBX System
Even though the upfront and ongoing costs associated with hosted PBX are very low relative to traditional telephone services, each provider offers different packages and services at different rates. For example, one company will charge for certain features while the same features will be included in another company’s basic package. Decide what features are important to your business, and then ask about the following costs before choosing a hosted PBX provider:
TCO: What is the total cost of ownership? This includes ongoing system upgrades, vendor management, long distance rates, staff costs, training, network access, and fees associated with additions, changes and relocation.
Installation fees: This fee should be nominal considering there is no hardware setup required, but some companies will charge for seat licenses and set up.
Training and Support
Many PBX service providers only offer web-based and/or telephone training and support, while others offer onsite group training. Assess your employee’s needs to evaluate whether or not this is an important factor in your decision. If you and your staff are fairly technologically savvy, online training and support may be all you need. Otherwise, select a provider that offers onsite support who will send technicians to the worksite to train your staff.
Is the Network Leased or Owned
When researching PBX providers, it is important to ask whether or not each owns its own network. Many PBX companies combine their service with the network of a separate provider by laying their service on top of the network the business client already has in place. Or, in many cases, the hosted PBX service will be packaged together with that of an existing network, and then sold as a bundle. This allows the PBX provider to focus on their service component, but it can create problems when internet service issues arise. Some hosted PBX companies do have their own networks which allow for streamlined resolution should problems arise with either the internet or telephone component of the service.
Some PBX providers don’t require a contract at all, while some do. If the provider you are considering does require a contract, ask if they offer an initial trial period that will allow you to ‘test drive’ the service first without entering into a binding contract. It’s an important question because, while package and price points vary between providers, so do the terms of service. Read the fine print, including length of contract and penalties for early termination. Inquire about mediation should unresolvable issues come up. Do not forget to ask for it all in writing.
Also ask about different service level agreements that include what is covered in software resolution and hardware repairs (if you lease or purchase their telephones), and whether or not the company guarantees a mean time for repairs to be completed. Make sure to identify exactly what type of support is offered (telephone, web-based, onsite), and at what cost, if any. Different providers include different tiers of service in their price plans. Before choosing a hosted PBX provider, have a clear understanding of the service options available.
Telephones are the lifeline of a business, so the decision of which hosted PBX service provider to use is one of the most important choices you will make for your business. The first step is to assess exactly what you need from a hosted service. The second step is to ask the right questions. When you make the right decision for your business, a hosted PBX service provider will save you money and hassle, and the right company will also help you present a more polished, professional image to your customer base.