Count the Real Costs before Switching to VOIP Service, Advises On Hold Company Blog

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CEO Bryant Wilson warns about security and reliability issues.

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Companies that drop landline phone service in favor of Voice Over IP could have unexpected problems with the service, warns company CEO Bryant Wilson in a recent On Hold Company blog post. "Hosted IP Telephony, also known as VOIP, seems like an attractive cost-cutting option for a small business," he said. "However, business owners need to understand the security and reliability issues associated with VOIP technology before they switch."

Problems such as poor call quality, vulnerability to hacking, and the inability to make and receive calls aren't just annoyances; they can affect a company's bottom line and damage customer relationships. In addition, traditional telephone service is highly regulated, but VOIP providers operate with much less oversight. A business could be left high and dry if its provider goes under.

That happened before. In 2004, thousands of Norvergence customers were left without phone or Internet service when the company shut down without notice. Salespeople targeted small businesses and offered "unlimited broadband, landline, and cell service" for one low price.

"Unfortunately, that was an expensive lesson in cost savings," noted Wilson. "Business owners can avoid those situations, but they have to set aside the lure of low cost service and do proper due diligence before signing up."

There are three major considerations," he continued, "security, call quality, and availability of backup systems during outages."

Since VOIP service is Internet based, it's open to the threats of hacking and viruses. In January, Cisco released a patch to close a security flaw on its IP phones that allowed hackers use a phone's microphone to eavesdrop from anywhere in the world. Ask providers about security precautions and research the equipment for known flaws.

Businesses should determine whether they have sufficient bandwidth to support VOIP. Service disruptions and high volumes of Internet traffic may result in packets being dropped or, in some cases, corrupted in transmission. The results can be choppy, garbled or even dropped portions of the conversation.

VOIP phone services are also more susceptible to outages than traditional telephone services. An Internet outage or a power outage that shuts down the telephone system’s server also shuts down service. "Find a provider with multiple data centers and redundant systems," Wilson advised, "because they're more likely to provide continuous access during large service interruptions."

A switch to VOIP service can also disrupt a company's marketing efforts, said Wilson. Many Internet service providers won't allow files from third parties, like on-hold message providers, to be loaded onto a company’s VOIP network. Those ISPs that will take a custom on-hold message require greater file compression, reducing the quality of the audio message.

"We have worked with many clients and ISPs to maintain strategic and high-quality on-hold messaging on VOIP telephone systems," Wilson concluded. "Successful VOIP implementation depends on all parties working in partnership to test the system and ensure that back-up plans are in place in the event of power outages, natural disasters, or other problems."

Readers can follow the On Hold Company blog at http://www.onholdcompany.com/blog.

About On Hold Company

On Hold Company (http://www.onholdcompany.com) is a leading provider of custom telephone on-hold music and messages. The company has been in business since 1994 and provides on-hold marketing for more than 13,000 clients across North America. On Hold Company also provides digital signage solutions, telephone voice prompts and overhead music and messaging services.

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Scott Anderson
On Hold Company
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