We’ve all heard the terms hosted VoIP, and managed VoIP. But definitions seem [tippy title=”varied”] Hosted VoIP is really any service hosted off premises such a cloud based PBX service but can be user managed. Managed VoIP is also hosted but configurations and feature availability are controlled by the service provider. Many Managed providers call their service hosted, but it’s really managed or pre-configured VoIP.[/tippy] and hard to pin down. It can be confusing, but the distinction comes down to who’s in control of the fences. I find it helpful to think of it in terms of preconfigured and customized VoIP.
Your phone system doesn’t get that one phone call, so you probably haven’t heard any cries for help. But the truth is, it might be time to bust your VoIP out of the pre-configured box it came in.
Your phone system isn’t just a phone system anymore. It’s a receptionist, a brand ambassador, and the backbone of your connection to the world. And like businesses, not all phone systems are created equal.
As your business grows and establishes unique operations, you eventually need a VoIP system tailored to your own set of needs.
Managed VoIP, or “VoIP in a box”, typically means you pay a monthly fee for every phone on every desk in your organization. That fee gives you [tippy title=”unlimited minutes”] Most pre-configured VoIP providers place restriction on unlimited plans. Some use ambiguous conditions such as “normal business use” as a clause to allow them to restrict your calling and charge you extra.[/tippy] and a set of standard features such as voice mail, call forwarding, and an auto attendant. You are shipped phones preconfigured with numbers and routing information. It is a packaged deal hosted and managed in the cloud.
Once you’re in a managed solution, changes beyond routing will need to be made on someone else’s service hours and response times. And there’s a good chance you’ll be locked into using the provider you choose if you want to keep using the hardware you bought to go with it. And if you grow to need new features incorporated into your system, you’d better hope your provider offers it, or has the flexibility to adapt with your business needs.
There is a time and a place for the structure of a pre-configured solution in the business lifecycle.
This type of managed phone system is attractive because of its relatively easy implementation and low upfront cost. Two scenarios would point you toward the rigid structure of a pre-configured system:
- You’re an organization with a relatively low number of seats (<20-25) that doesn’t anticipate growth, and call volumes are fixed and way above average business use. I.E. everyone in your office is spending more than two hours a day on the phone.
- You lack the time, or access to the expertise required to develop a customized solution built specifically to your needs.
A customized hosted solution, by definition, is built around your usage patterns and needs. You can build a custom system on premises which would make sense for large organizations looking to keep call management with in the company network, but otherwise, an IP PBX hosted off-site in the cloud will work. As telecom and IT technologies converge, there is no shortage of consultants able to help select and configure your system. If you have the capabilities in-house, all the better.
Pulling in the components you need gives you the most flexibility and control over your phone system. Custom hosted solutions allow you to decide which fences are built and where. At any time, you’re able to move fences, tear them down, and build new ones.
So when should you customize your VoIP? Here are three key examples.
- Build a custom VoIP platform for your business if you need control all the time. With the right SIP trunk and hosted PBX, you can grow capacity on demand.
- If you want or need granular accounting of your phone system for, say, keeping track of your spending, you’ll get it with a connection that breaks down your usage by number by minute, and only charges you for the exact amount of service you use.
- Equipment is a consideration. If you have existing equipment it may actually work with a custom platform where a managed system would require an across-the-board hardware upgrade.
What’s the verdict?
If you’re spending the majority of your day on the phone (just make sure you qualify “Unlimited”), or can’t spare the time to study your needs and customize, a managed solution will get you through.
If you need control of your systems to accommodate flexibility, growth, and responsiveness, and/or you need to account for your spending in a detailed way, free your VoIP with a customized platform that puts you in charge of your business communications.