What are the hidden costs of VOIP?

Moving to an IP PBX system can be financially advantageous, resulting in lower long distance fees, lower hardware costs, and access to higher-end features for very little extra money. The salespeople who offer the systems are quick to point out these advantages, and they are correct—but before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you have the whole picture. There are other costs involved besides the retail price of the equipment, which may not be immediately obvious. Even with all indirect or “hidden” costs factored in, IP PBX is still often a wise decision, but it pays to be informed, and be aware of the big picture.

Bandwidth

One of the first hidden costs you could potentially face is the cost of additional bandwidth. If you are not already using VoIP, you must realize that once your IP PBX is installed, your voice traffic will be moving over your Internet connection, as opposed to the phone company’s copper wire. This will place an extra burden on your existing Internet connection, and you may need to upgrade for additional bandwidth. If you have a small office with only a few phones, and you have a DSL connection to the Internet, you may be able to get away with keeping your current bandwidth, but an upgrade may be in order, depending on how many phone lines you have and what your simultaneous usage may be. You may need to upgrade from DSL to a fractional T1, or if you have a fractional T1, you may need a full T1, and this will represent additional monthly cost.

New phones

If you’re moving to VoIP, you’ll need IP phones, since your old phones won’t work and won’t support the advanced features you’ll get from your IP PBX system. In many cases, this is a hard decision, since a large office may have tens of thousands of dollars tied up in telephones which are perfectly usable. You have a choice between purchasing all-new IP phones, or purchasing adapters for your existing phones. The adapter option may save some money, but it may be defeating the purpose of deploying the IP PBX in the first place. The modern IP phones are built with IP telephony in mind, and are ready to take advantage of the many new features that would not be supported on your old phones with just an adapter.

Installation

If you’re running an on-premises IP PBX, you need to either have skilled staff on site, or use the services of a professional who will install the IP PBX at your facility. Ideally, this installer will be able to switch over to the new system in a fairly transparent manner, so you are not faced with any substantial downtime; and in addition, they should also be able to take time to train you and your staff on how to use your new system.

Integration

The high-end features of your IP PBX system will allow you to integrate your phone system with many existing applications. For example, your phone system could be integrated with your customer database, so that your call agents get a “screen pop” whenever a call comes in, showing not only who is calling, but their entire order history and sales notes. This type of integration adds to productivity, but may require some custom integration by professionals who understand both the IP PBX system, and the other applications with which it must work.