So, you’ve decided to switch telephone companies…let me be the first to congratulate you on that move. The next step in this process is to take a step back, and ensure that the transition will be a smooth one. This involves a bit of diligence and planning to ensure that the change is not only seamless, but also free of hurdles, difficulties, and unnecessary costs. Once a new company is selected, there are a number of challenges to consider from your initial decision to the point you lift up the receiver and find comfort in a functional dial tone. This guide will instruct on some of the necessary moves to assure you’ll be able to pick up and dial out with little to no issue along the way:
Number Porting: One of the most of appealing aspects in making a switch to VoIP service or from another service is you don’t necessarily have to give up your number. Under the Federal Commission’s ‘local number portability’ (LNP) rules, as long as you remain in the same geographic area, you are entitled to hold onto your existing phone number. This takes the ordeal out of listing new numbers in ads, directories, or even having your customers dial out to a non-working number or wrong location. Number porting ensures continuity, with a lot of service providers offering the movement for little cost or free to encourage you to take on a subscription with them – if there are fees, request to have them waived; service providers want your business and it’s always worth the attempt. Here are a few more guidelines to follow:
- Don’t let providers bully you by stating the number cannot be ported – it’s the law, and you are the owner of your number. (In POTS > VoIP transitions)
- Changing numbers is rarely an overnight, or even week long process in most, if not all porting initiations. Never terminate your service with the existing company before initiating service with the prospective company. Request a timeline for completion and allow for even more time on that estimate to be safe.
- Ask questions throughout, getting an idea when subscribing of how long it will take, continuing to hassle and press until the very moment your old number is activated with the new service. Ensure both parties (including yourself) are in communication and on the same page by being inquisitive, and dare I say, pestilent – this is your livelihood after all.
- Though the new company will be welcoming you with open arms, you might be looking at a hefty termination fee from your previous service provider. Be aware of all contract stipulations, and weigh if the move is worth waiting on to avoid these charges. Of course, if you’re particularly unhappy with a provider and it’s worth to you, then make sure all balances are cleared as companies retain the right to withhold porting your number until you’ve squared up with them.
- Another great question to ask, is if it’s possible to port in this order – POTS > VoIP >VoIP. This is due to the fact VoIP providers have to lease the number, and register it to their name for your use. There are acceptions, but should you find that you might need to switch providers again, you might have to give up your number, creating an ordeal that’s best avoided for an established business.
Downtime: If you are implementing a VoIP system that’s a bit more advanced, downtime is a huge consideration. When looking at swapping out major components like switches and servers, you can be sure that there will be a blackout of sorts without some vigilance. On the other hand, weaning off your existing system until the new one is up and running will decrease/eliminate any downtime whatsoever.
- Maintain your existing POTS-based telephony systems, and work within your means. Out with the old and in with the new only applies when the new is fully deployed – no reason to be hasty and leave your business in the cold.
- On the day your port is ready to go, you may have a little downtime – though if things go smoothly, you shouldn’t at all…plan accordingly.
Installation: This is another element that will certainly require a bit of intelligent planning (pending your implementation calls for it). Here’s a few pointers:
- Shuffle in new components gradually, if possible, without having to disconnect existing systems or leave them offline for an extended period of time
- Schedule installations for the weekend, or during off hours whenever you can to avoid disruption of your staff or otherwise. Starting with servers/firewalls and subsequently moving towards smaller components makes for a smoother process that’s easier to progressively troubleshoot. In the circumstance of getting multiple locations online, complete each site and then conclude by ensuring they are are interconnected and working to optimal ability.
- In some cases, devices will be plug-and-play, and easy to provision. Make sure this is the case, and if it isn’t, ask the individual appointed to helping you through the process to give you a technical rundown so you are prepped for the future.
- VoIP will require power for modems, routers, ATAs, IP Phones, and more…make sure you’re equipped for the change. Call an electrician immediately if you’re not, and don’t cut yourself ‘short’.
It’s nearly impossible to cover the entire scope of problems that might arise when switching phone service, as Murphy’s Law doesn’t discriminate by any means. Nevertheless, following this guide will provide a bit of confidence as you make the change over to a more favorable service, and start seeing the savings pile up, not to mention a real boost in employee satisfaction/productivity. The best suggestion I can leave you with is to work closely with your new provider, and *gasp*, the company you might not be so fond of as well. Be diplomatic, ask questions, and keep things as orderly and transparent as possible. I’m always looking to squeeze in metaphors, and I’ll slip this one in edgeways – switching phone service is much like finding a new job, without quitting your old one. Make sure the process is seamless, without downtime – a hurdle that will certainly cost not only money, but valuable time and resources. There’s truly nothing to be afraid of, and deciding to make the switch is the first big step in leaving the worst behind by finding service that’s best for you.