With any new technology that develops even the slightest buzz, comes the treachery of companies looking to capitalize on the trend by selling an inferior product deemed as anything but. Fortunately, we as consumers are equipped with the greatest defense mechanism – our own discretion.  For example, sites like FindTheBest.com might come in handy when shopping for an IP Phone, being purely data-driven, free of corporate narratives, and open for unbiased consumer review (the ability to fine tune searches doesn’t hurt either).

Paid “Experts”: In an interview late last year, CEO of FindTheBest.com, Kevin O’ Connor, poignantly emphasized the unfortunate fact that the Internet is “full of garbage”, plagued with “distrustful information, affiliate shills, [and] people telling you what was best even though they were getting paid to say it.” I couldn’t agree more, while some of these ‘trustworthy’ voices could care less – this is where you come in. The irony is, the aforementioned website claims to provide the best, and does so elegantly. This is by involving a number of factors mentioned, and steering clear of the ones touched upon by O’Connor, which inundate the web with…as he so aptly put it, rubbish.

Keeping Up Appearances: Selecting a VoIP provider involves painstaking research, mind-numbing comparison, and thorough inquisition. Although Google is a great tool to get the info you need in a few keystrokes, there’s simply no substitute for actively gathering facts from a myriad of resources, whether they be living or digital. The caveat to this of course, is either might only appear great without closer inspection – like a withering Xmas tree in mid-January, the decorations still gleaming, masking the true integrity of the structure. For IP technology, this is the best (or worst, depending how you look at it) tactic for companies, presenting a product that’s inherently complex through extensive narrative alone. Demand cold hard facts in the form of videos, reviews, and detailed specifications, rather than being connived by a tarantella of vernacular designed to unhinge your wallet. To the trained eye, it’s usually pretty simple to figure out what’s valuable insight and what is nothing more than corporate fanfare, a promotional piece of propaganda, beckoning for your buck.

Defining The Best The Best Around: Rather than mentioning what to look for, it’s more productive to focus on what to avoid. Claims of being the “best” or “#1” at anything only hold water when legitimate rankings come into play. Neither terms are truly applicable when it comes to VoIP technology. A gold medalist is inarguably the best at their sport (for a limited time), while a service provider making these claims might be doing so based on their own self-assessment, driven by profits alone. There are plenty of offerings that are good in theory but collapse under network inconsistencies or a lack of native QoS. The best way to discover these intangibles is to read consumer feedback – if an issue shows up multiple times (i.e. dropped calls, poor customer service), that’s a red flag that warrants closer inspection.

Expired Milk: What’s more? Keep an eye out for providers clinging to awards from years ago as their most proud/recent achievement. The winner of the Internet Telephony Product of the Year in 2009, may not cut it in 2013…awards in technology are simply not as timeless as a Pulitzer Prize, per se. Find out what a product does [functionality], how consistently well it performs [reliability], the extent and quality of support [technical/customer], and finally, decide whether it’s the best for you and your business.  Pricing comparisons alone are not sufficient, and I encourage buyers to focus on the long-term rather than saving big on a cheap plan – you might after all, get what you pay for. Have another metaphor – a quality shoe might not be the right fit for you…on that note, I’ll stop.

No matter what, we’re still all muddled knee-deep in fancy advertisements, skewed information, and half-truths built to win our business. Traverse the endless landscape of this technology as an enlightened, critical consumer, and never compromise. When shopping for a VoIP solution, be certain it’s “the best” for you, and not declared as such by those paid to do so. You won’t be disappointed, while a prospective buyer who didn’t heed this advice, will.

Related Articles:
– Business VoIP Buyer’s Guide
– Residential VoIP Buyer’s Guide