Business Voice Over IP (VoIP)

Voice over Internet Protocol allows you to make phone calls using an internet connection.

Business VoIP South Africa | VoIP Business Telephone Systems

Best VoIP Providers For Businesses in South Africa

VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is a technology that allows you to make phone calls using an internet connection instead of your regular fixed-line phone service. VoIP phone service is internet based and doesn’t require a regular home phone line. It uses a regular phone as a communication device.

It is also referred to as Voice over IP, broadband phone, or internet phone service and can be used with a phone system, stand-alone desktop phone, or even as an app on your mobile or personal computer.

The only requirement for VoIP is a reliable internet connection and a partner who knows what they are doing!

Go ahead and make the transition to VoIP – it’s cheaper, easy to set up and implement, and it is for everyone! Reduce your long distance costs, save money on fixed telephony services, and get greater flexibility with Business VoIP in South Africa. Get in touch with us today for exclusive offers on VoIP packages in SA. 

Benefits of VoIP for Business

Cheaper Line Rentals

Cut the cord (and the fee that comes with it), because with VoIP you use your internet line to make and receive calls for your business. Plus, it’s normal to get services like caller ID, hunting facility, and voicemail for FREE!

Flexible Calling Packages

Most VoIP Business Phone Service providers have competitive calling plans from low per second fees, to bundled minutes and even unlimited calling plans! Most businesses stand to save a whopping 45% on their bills when compared to standard Telkom rates!

Portability & Location Independence

With Voice over IP, your number goes where you go – as long as you have access to an internet connection, you could be online making and receiving calls! And VoIP is awesome for remote workers too!

Endless Connection Opportunities

VoIP is for everyone! Whether you use an old(er) phone system, a hosted PBX, a VoIP desk phone, a mobile app or PC Softphone, VoIP makes communicating from anywhere, possible – from whatever device you have available!

Fail-over & Backup

Since there are no physical phone lines, your VoIP provider should be able to automatically redirect calls to any external number (like your mobile phone or another branch office) should there be any disruption at your physical office premises.

Versatile

VoIP truly paves the way for innovation. The technology is moving so rapidly and the eco-system is expanding to allow for integration and information exchange between other non-telephony applications. Plus, delivering new solutions like remote working is a reality!

Before you take the leap, some things you need to know about Business VoIP:

The buck needs to stop somewhere – and in our market, just because someone is selling you something, doesn’t mean that they own the network and are a licensed network operator.

Understand that if you’re dealing with an agent, it is usually not on their terms, but rather on the terms of the company who owns and operates the network.

Remember, VoIP quality is not regulated and therefore you can’t hold anyone to task on terms that you agree to.

Before you sign up with a new provider, make sure that you look at your current contracts, for example, a traditional ISDN PRI line was usually signed on a 36 month term – the last thing you want to do is sign a new contract just to discover that you’re going to sit with double the costs!

Under the current regulations, not all numbers can be ported. You may only port geographic numbers such as 010, 011, 021, 031, etc.

If your business uses non-geographic numbers like 087, 0800, 0860, etc. then you may be forced to keep your existing lines so that these numbers remain in service.

Great, so you’re moving away from traditional fixed lines over to VoIP… Well, you need an internet line to run VoIP, and as with most businesses, that internet line is shared for other uses such as internet, email and so on.

You’re going to need to to carefully plan how to set up your Internet line so that Voice takes priority over other traffic, as well as that you increase your line speed and data allowance so that voice can run optimally.

If you are in the business where you need to frequently change your caller ID, it may be best to play open cards with your provider and tell them what you need to do and why – they will then tell you what they can and can’t do under the current regulations.

Breaching the rules will put the phone operator at risk, and your business will sit with penalties.

Very few VoIP Providers will take any responsibility beyond the device which they deliver – that could be within their network, or a device which they implement onsite.

What that means is that it will become your responsibility to ensure that your Network has adequate security and protection to avoid any hacking occurrences which has cost businesses hundreds of thousands of Rands over just a few hours which they are forced to pay!

When you engage with your Provider, be sure to make a note of all the functionality you currently use – within your business, and from your current phone providers. This is imperative to understand whether there will be any gaps as you migrate to VoIP, for example, VoIP doesn’t play nice with older fax machines, alarm systems or credit card machines.

There are a many moving parts (and points of failure) with VoIP.

Be clear on what service uptime your business demands, and what environmental issues you have experienced in the past (such as cable theft, power outages, etc.) so that you can build the right solution for your needs.

VoIP is reliant on the internet – but we also know that sometimes the internet can be unforgiving.

Work with your provider to understand what you can control and what you can’t – and when there are issues within the provider network, what Service Level agreement is in place to restore services.

It is an unfortunate reality, but VoIP systems and networks are ideal targets for fraudsters – and in most cases, it is customer systems which are hacked, leaving them to foot the bill with the network provider.

Security, monitoring and anti-fraud processes are imperative to understand from your VoIP provider.

Dialling Emergency Services may be an issue – although not very common, Providers must ensure that they open their network or systems for emergency calling.

Beyond that, E.911 is a standard used by Emergency Services where they are able to detect your location and patch you through to a local Emergency Services Unit or Operator, however, since there is location independency with VoIP, you may very well not get effective services as you would on traditional fixed line networks.

Ready to go?

Questions to ask your provider

Work with your chosen provider to understand all the FIXED and VARIABLE costs involved in receiving the service for your business.

Fixed Costs – are usually made up of line rentals, subscriptions, hardware and service level agreements.

Variable Costs – are made up from usage-based services or ad hoc services, including any out-of-bundle charges.

Ask what costs there are at the different stages of your partnership too.

Start-up Costs – these could be costs related to any service activation, installation and provisioning, training and hardware required for the service.

Note: If there are no setup or hardware costs, make sure that you understand whether you are liable for any of these costs at any stage of the partnership.

Subscription Costs – these are the anticipated costs for use of the services. Be sure to understand what other costs may come into play and ensure that you agree to those costs upfront.

Conclusion and Exit Costs – at the end of the agreement term, ask what happens. Is there a cancellation notice period, is there an automatic renewal? What happens to the hardware, and are there any fees for removal of the equipment or infrastructure?

Having clarity and complete transparency on all costs will help you to do an apples for apples comparison between providers, and ensure that you don’t sit with any unexpected surprises.

Under the current regulations, not all numbers can be ported. You may only port geographic numbers such as 010, 011, 021, 031, etc.

If your business uses non-geographic numbers like 087, 0800, 0860, etc. then you may be forced to keep your existing lines so that these numbers remain in service.

Find out about the costs and conditions to move your phone numbers, and if your provider has a “work-around” for moving numbers which cannot be ported, be sure that you understand how that service works, and what costs are involved – you do not want to land up with possible call forwarding costs which will leave you paying for both incoming and outgoing calls for your business.

VoIP is a versatile technology which can connect to almost any system in the market.

Integrating VoIP onto a phone system can be done when the phone system supports IP/SIP trunks. However, if there is no native SIP trunk capability, your provider will most likely supply you with a VoIP gateway which connects to the traditional line ports (analogue/ISDN) on your phone system, which converts those analogue/digital transmissions to VoIP.

It is always a good idea to make a list and declare all the functionality and services your business uses, to make sure that you are aware of any limitations of services which may not work over the VoIP service (for example, faxing) upfront.

Since VoIP runs over the internet, you will need a good enough internet line to run voice. At the end of the day, your quality may very well be as good as your internet connection.

If you’re going to get a separate internet line and network for VoIP, that is a great option, albeit a costly exercise.

If you intend using your existing Internet line, then as with most businesses, that internet line is shared for other uses such as internet, email and so on.

You’re going to need to carefully plan how to set up your internet line so that voice takes priority over other traffic, as well as that you increase your line speed and data allowance so that voice can run optimally.

Have the discussion with your provider – weigh up the options considering the costs and risks involved.

Make a note of line size, consistency, data usage, security and quality monitoring – all vital aspects.

If you are being pushed to sign up to a specific calling plan – find out why? If your provider has not understood your current billing and usage, how are they able to recommend a new package?

Study your calling plan and monitor the regulations which often defines the costs operators will charge to exchange calls between each other’s networks.

Make sure that there are no catches, such as an irregularly low starting rate with an escalation or a limited offer you may not be aware of, enticed to get you to sign up.

Be fair though and remember that providers need to make a fair margin to provide the level of service and support you are expecting from them, as well as invest in their networks.

This is quite a difficult question to answer as there are many factors which could affect call quality.

Start with whether the issue is network-wide or isolated to your specific office.

A network-wide issue will mean that this is on the providers network and affects all customers who connect to their network – unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about this, and that’s where your service level agreement becomes important.

There is a measure for call quality called Mean Opinion Score or MOS rating which rates a call on a scale of bad (1) to good (5). As a guideline, providers will be expected to maintain levels of between 3 – 5, with VoIP often averaging around 4.2.

If the issue is limited to your office, then it is advisable to work with your IT provider to look at your internal network and internet connection to identify where there are possible blockages.

Have the discussion with your provider. Ask them what they do (and what you can do) to ensure that calls on the network are controlled, managed and maintain high quality levels.

Reliability can be split into two parts, namely:

Reliability of your provider – what they do to deliver the levels of uptime and availability they state in their service level agreement.

Reliability of your office – what measures you can put in place to make sure that you can continue to make and receive calls under all circumstances, for example, when your internet connection fails, when power is interrupted, or when your phone system fails.

Most of the time everything should work as expected, but when it doesn’t, the real difference between providers can be realised.

Each service should be accompanied by a service level agreement which will give a clear understanding of how you can expect to be supported.

Questions you may want to ask you provider include:

  • What are your coverage hours?
  • How can I contact support?
  • How long will you take to respond to my request?
  • How long will it take to resolve my issue?
  • Is there a cost for support? When do costs apply?
  • What happens if I am not happy with the level of support I receive?

 

This is where it becomes extremely important to research the various providers before you make your decision! Read past customer reviews, see what their other customers have to say about them online, and don’t be shy to ask for references which you can personally contact!

Network uptime and guarantees

Make sure you understand more about the network your service provider has built or manages. Ask what network redundancy and resiliency is in place, and what uptime guarantees there are? If these are important to you, then they will be important to the service provider too.

Network and device monitoring

Find out whether your chosen provider monitors your connection and the hardware required. Will they know about connectivity issues before you do? And what happens in the case of faulty hardware? What will it take to restore services and at whose cost for collection, delivery and provisioning?

It is always advisable to read and understand the full service terms and conditions which will state the contract duration, renewal and cancellation terms.

You may want to place particular focus on notice periods, automatic renewal clauses, and fees associated with renewals and cancellation – especially when new equipment was provided at no direct cost to you at the start of your agreement.

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