Is it a good idea to switch to VOIP?
I recently had reason to explore the possibility of switching a firm from land line to VOIP. Now, to many people, switching to VOIP would be a no brainer, but it is never a good idea to just switch without doing some research.
The reason I was checking is because when I saw the monthly phone bill, I knew it was too high. As a result, I wanted to see if I could lower the cost by switching to VOIP. However, I also called the land line provider to find out what kind of deals might be available on their end.
Check a Few Things First
1. Check the quality and reliability of the Internet connection of the firm. If you switch to VOIP and the internet connection is not reliable, now you have a situation where both the phones and Internet are down. Not a good idea.
2. Check and see what is available in the building. Are there limitations to what can be installed?
3. Check and see what the firm is already using. Do they have a great system with no real reason to change?
4. What does the firm use now, and what do they need to have available? Do they want (or need) to change anything?
What I found
The first thing I found was that the Internet connection was not very reliable. In fact the firm was very unhappy with its Internet connection, so I knew I needed to change it. But, even though the blame for the Internet connection was put on the provider, this situation is a red flag to me. How do I know the problem is with the Internet provider and not with the building and/or wiring itself?
I learned also that the firm didn’t want to change anything and was happy with what it had, including a nice PBX system. It just wanted to cut costs.
Given my research, I looked into the cost of switching everything over to VOIP but I also looked at whether the provider of the firm’s land line had any possible discounts.
What I learned was pretty straight forward. The land line price could be cut by $300 if we went to a two year contract. In addition, we could bundle the Internet service with the phone service, allowing a change of Internet providers and saving an additional $100 per month.
For VOIP I learned that if I switched the firm it would save about $75 per month over staying with the system it was already using and obtaining the discount. So the firm would have been saving about $475 per month if it switched versus $400 in savings if it stayed with land lines.
My Advice – Stay with the Land Line
I suggested the firm stay with the service it was already using. My advice was based on the history of Internet problems, the needs of the firm, and the reliability of the system the firm was already using. I had been told that the building was known to have some Internet issues on its own. In addition, there were no features available in VOIP that the firm needed that it could not have through land lines.
Yes, there are a lot of snazzy features that some VOIP features provide, but in the balance there were some considerable risks to switching. Nor did the firm require the snazzy features. A proper analysis of the Internet connection problem would have been costly, fixing it, if a problem was found would have been more costly, and all the firm wanted to do was save money, not have the potential of a major repair job. If the new Internet provider simply tested the Internet connection and assured me it was fine, I still wouldn’t have felt good about the risk to the firm’s phones. Providers make promises all the time. They are worth the paper they are written on (and the promise would haven’t been on paper.) Even better, the firm’s in house IT person agreed with my assessment.
Just because a newer technology exists does not mean it is a good idea to switch to it. It is important to talk with the firm, understand its concerns and needs and advise accordingly. In this case, switching to the newer technology in the face of an uncertain Internet connection would have been very unwise. Saving $75 per month was not worth the potential disaster of having phone lines go down if the Internet problems continued. Further, the firm was happy with what it had, so there was no reason to change, and it would have been just for the sake of changing, because let’s face it, $75 per month isn’t much to a successful law firm. I saved the firm $400 per month, and didn’t risk the reliability of its phone system. That was the best way to go.