How Do I Choose The Right System For Our Business? – This is the million dollar question. If you listen to the sales people, every one of the systems they are proposing are absolutely fantastic and better than the rest. So … how do you choose the system that will be the best fit for your business?
There are few important factors to consider. First, you really need to look at your wish list and decide what features you are actually going to use. A lot of them sound amazing, but are you actually going to use them. Look at the features that make sense for your particular type of business and for the people who are going to use them. Let’s be realistic, if the system is too complicated for your staff they will start to feel overwhelmed by the complexity of it all, they will continually complain about it, they will hate the new system and productivity will go down along with employee morale.
Talk to your staff about the features they are interested in, let them have some input, and have some of them sit in on the sales meetings and ask questions. It will be well worth the extra time and money it costs to do so, plus they will be happier about the fact they actually had some input and you were concerned about what they had to say.
During our sales presentations, we normally try to encourage one person from each department to join in on the meetings whenever possible. The meeting usually takes a little longer, but it gives us a better chance to gather information on how your business is operating and some of the challenges your staff are trying to overcome. Every business is unique and has it’s own set of issues and if that isn’t taken into consideration, you’ll never help them solve those issues.
One of the most important factors you should always consider is “Licensing”. This is something that can become very costly, very fast. Most VoIP systems and the features that are offered are provided through something called “System Licenses”. These licenses are something you have to purchase to allow users to access the available features. Licenses are usually sold on a per user basis, or in small blocks. For example, most systems will provide voice mail to email notification for a limited amount of users… maybe 5… however if you need more than the basic number provided, you are required to purchase an additional license for more users. The fees for these licenses range from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars depending on the feature and the number of users required. In addition, some licensing on certain systems, like Shoretel and Cisco, are only good for a limited amount of time and requires renewal once that time period has elapsed. Beware of these types of vendors, again the long term costs are often over looked and those hidden costs can add up very quickly.
There are a few systems on the market where licensing really isn’t an issue. Once you purchase the software or one license, it’s regarded as an open license, and that feature is available to all users on the system. This can quickly become a real money saver over the long term. Two examples of manufacturers that offer this type of licensing are Allworx and Grandstream.
Another important item to look for is called “Software Assurance”. You must remember these new phone systems. or IP PBX’S, are classified as “PBX Servers” and are software driven just like any PC or Server. Software upgrades are not free. It’s just like upgrading the Windows software on your PC. When a new version of software comes out… if you want the upgrade you have to purchase it. The big difference is, upgrades come out usually twice a year, so unless you have “Software Assurance” you won’t have access to the new features or to any improvements that may be available for the features you already have. Software Assurance is usually purchased for a period of one to five years. Obviously if you purchase a 5 year agreement, it’s not as expensive over the long term, but it is a cost factor that has to be considered. Software Assurance is often bundled in with a “Maintenance Agreement” and sometimes not available unless you purchase both together. Make sure you ask questions and understand the terms of the agreement. This is imperative before you sign on the dotted line.
In the next posting, we’ll talk about the most popular features and the advantages they often provide.