The SMB sector of VoIP represents the largest of focuses for many of the big name providers out there. The name of the game is offering the most for less, the most innovative and useful, in exchange for the mundane. That being said, the cost benefits of VoIP are obvious with the next step in the process being to make an educated decision as to which solution is best for your company. A growing number of small-to-medium businesses love the recent wave of offerings that bring big business features to the forefront of this market.  Others like a more minimalist approach and would prefer to stick to a less costly version of dial tone. Like no two businesses are the same, neither are any two providers. Accordingly, shopping for a VoIP solution will cause questions to arise – here are a few of the key one’s we’ve posed and answered in their entirety help you select the best VoIP provider for your firm:

How Will I Be Using My Phone System?

Take a look at your phone bill for the last few months to get an idea of how many minutes your use in a month. It will give you a good idea of whether you’re better off with a metered or unlimited plan. But that’s only half of it. Are most of those calls intra-office, incoming, outgoing, or toll-free? Offerings from VoIP providers are significantly different, not catered to one particular business. The variances in these plans not only refers to price, but also inclusions, as in added features,

Calls between extensions are free with almost every VoIP provider, whether the extension is down the hall or across the world. Most VoIP providers also have unlimited in-network calls globally. If the vast majority of calls are going to one company, perhaps you should even ask who they get their phone service from.

Example: A toll free number from Vocalocity is $39.99, as much as an unlimited extension, but all toll-free calls are included. onSIP charges $2/month for a phone number, and 3.9 cents for incoming toll calls. Between those two, you’d have to receive over 1,300 toll-free minutes to be worth it. If you company receives 2,000+ Toll-Free minutes, there’s a clear choice between the two.

How Many Voice Mail Boxes Do I Need?

Generally, there is one extension per mailbox. Each extension usually rings 3 numbers at once.  Virtual extensions and virtual mail boxes can free up your employees by leaving outgoing messages, like directions and hours. Remote employees can stay in the loop with virtual mailboxes, or perhaps not every employee needs a mailbox at all.

How Many Phone Numbers Will I Need?

One of the advantages of VoIP is that you don’t need to buy extra phone numbers to make outgoing calls. VoIP providers theoretically have no limit on how many calls you can have at once, but they may limit it by extension or by plan. A virtual extension forwards calls to other phones, and a virtual number forwards international or long distance calls to your office.

For incoming calls, you can have a direct number, but you don’t have to. Each company charges different amounts for incoming phone numbers.

Examples (Not counting initial fees): RingCentral: $4.99/mo, onSIP: $2/mo, Phonebooth: $1/mo,

How Will I Use Features I’m Unfamiliar With?

From features as simple as a Click-To-Dial widget to powerful desktop software like the Vocalocity Desktop and the Fonality HUD, VoIP has a number of tools that will change the way you use your phone. But, they aren’t any good if you don’t use them properly, or don’t even know they exist. Learn about the advanced features of VoIP, and also if you feel comfortable using them. There’s no need to force it. But, we suggest you look through our reviews and video tutorials to learn about what features will save you time and help you keep track of your clients’ needs.

Am I Willing to Change My Behavior Outside my Business Phone?

There’s a story of a small business owner who signed up to a major business VoIP provider, expecting big savings on his phone bill. To his surprise, his bill was larger than before. He angrily called up customer support, but, in looking at his history, he had to sheepishly admit that he made a few major sales that brought in a lot more business, and that was a direct result of using the powerful tools of VoIP. That large bill can be a shock, but it was a direct result of him using the phone more to make more sales.

You may find that once you make the switch to VoIP, you’ll want to take a second look at what else changes when you switch to VoIP. If your phone forwards to your home or cell phone, should you change your cell phone plan (up or down?) to reflect the change in usage? Do you want to print up new business cards with just one number? How about buying an IP phone to use at home so you can do business at home without tying up the line? Can you get used to calling a SIP address rather than dialing a phone number? Will you get so used to the great features of VoIP that you decide to also get residential VoIP for your home?

My point in these last few questions is not to intimidate you. It’s to get you to rethink your entire mindset about your phone. With VoIP, a phone is no longer that thing that sits on your desk, it’s part of an integrated system that helps you stay productive all day long.