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By KrisnTransport
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We are currently using the BT Business phone solution. Some of the more tech savvy guys have been recommending we switch to a voip system for a while now and I have just been given the green light to look into possibilities.

We currently have 12 employees and are looking to add a few more to the team in 6-12 months. The current phone system from BT is up for renewal and I was hoping someone on this forum might be able to assist my search and help me look in the right places. Each employee also has an office mobile as well as their own desk extension numbers and voice mail.

Our absolute requirements are voicemail, call forwarding and conference calling. We also deal with foreign clients a fair bit so some kind of international calling plan would be ideal. I know that the current system we have works for us but if we can get the equivalent or better for less then that would be great!

I'm the most non tech-savy person in the office and unfortunately I've been tasked with coming up with possible alternatives to what we have as I have the most time available for research! My initial questions are as follows:

1. Do we get a seperate voip provider and purchase the kit like this and get our IT department to sort it all out (they are obviously not very keen on the extra work!!)

2. Would you recommend an all in one solution such as this (currently the IT department's front runner =)

3. What do you use if you have a similar number of people?

Thanks for your time and any pointers/recommendations are much appreciated

-Steve Malloy
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By GoofyCyborg
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Your choices are between a hardware PBX (switchboard) - ie your own box on the wall or in your comms rack managed by you, and a hosted system - ie a PBX 'in the cloud', managed by the VoIP company you choose.

Both require you to choose a VoIP provider who will provide your telephone numbers and your connections to them - they're normally called SIP Trunks - they're the modern version of a telephone line or circuits.

There are advantages and disadvantages of owning your own equipment and using a hosted system.

As a rule of thumb a hosted system is best for small businesses - small can mean anything really - we have users with over 100 extensions on our hosted system, but more normally up to 20.

If you have people working from home or in branch offices or overseas, a hosted service is the default choice because no other service can extend outside the office the box is in - or not for free anyway.

If you don't have tech support people that can help you set up a VoIP PBX and keep it maintained, I strongly urge you NOT to use a hardware PBX - unless you have people that know what they're doing, the system will be hacked in days.

Hosted systems are managed by the service provider, so you don't have to worry about them. A good provider will sell you a plug and play service, which you can then personalise to fit your ways of working.

Both a hardware PBX and a hosted PBX for 12 users will require two telephone lines and two broadband connections. This is so that you can use one connection for your internet use and the other for your telephones. A good business broadband connection, using high quality setting (much better than normal phones) will carry at least 10 simultaneous calls - many more with a lower quality setting (somewhere between a mobile and a good PSTN call.)

It's a really good idea to get your broadband, your phones and your SIP Trunks and numbers from the same provider - that way they can't push the blame for something onto the bit of the service that you didn't buy from them. It's also a good idea NOT to get both broadbands from the same provider - as with just a tiny bit of tech know how - you can have failover between the two. If one dies, you carry on almost as normal until it's fixed.
Another thing I'd say is to go to the ITSPA web site here

ITSPA - Internet Telephony Services Providers Association - Home

and pick a company that is a member and preferably one that has their quality mark

ITSPA (Internet Telephone Service Providers Association) is the industry body for VoIP. If they're a member they have to conform to various codes of best practice and your telephone numbers are protected.

I'd also suggest that you have a look at the Voipfone website and maybe give them a call to talk it through. The people there are tech support not sales, so they'll try to give you the best advice. 020 7043 5555

Their PBX is here:

Voipfone - UK VoIP Internet Telephone Service PBX Features List

Good luck!
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By WelshPaul
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If you decide to go down the VoIP route well I would recommend Voipfone. Check out the reviews on the net, service is second to none. :)
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By KrisnTransport
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Thanks for the great responses!

I posted on a couple of other business forums and Voipfone - Award Winning Telephone Services For Business was recommended on them as well so I have added them to the shortlist and will get one of the more technically minded people to discuss options.

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