So you've done the analysis and decided that VoIP is the way forward. Where to start? What do you need?
Unfortunately there's no simple answer to this. VoIP solutions come in many shades and flavours. There are fully hosted solutions, partially hosted solutions, locally hosted solutions, true VoIP, partial VoIP, IP-capable PBX units, softPBX devices, VoIP servers, messaging gateways and the list just goes on and on. The best solution for one business is unlikely to suit the business next door. So, the best first step is to seek advice from industry experts -- VoIP solution providers and system integrators.
If you have a small business and your voice requirements are minimal, investigate what your ISP has to offer. Many ISPs are offering broadband-based VoIP solutions, and they're generally pretty good. See what features you'll receive, how the call costs compare to your current plan and whether you'd make savings over time. This way, you don't have to worry about implementing a local solution -- someone else takes care of everything.
For medium businesses and larger, the options are simply too varied to list comprehensively in one spot. Each vendor will offer you a different package, different solutions, different hardware, different software products, different features, hosting options and support agreements. As much as it sounds like a cop-out (and it feels like one too), there are simply too many companies, vendors and products to list them comprehensively in one place.
The best course of action is to approach a small number of VoIP integrators to get an overview from each one as to what is likely to be suitable for your business, and compare them. If they're any good, the proposals should be fairly close to each other, which makes it easy to discard any obviously inflated quotes. Start with your current voice carrier -- all major telcos in Australia now offer VoIP solutions for business.
However, you can start getting to grips with VoIP in the office by setting up a test environment and involving a few key users to test messaging functionality, service integration and hardware. You can easily set up a software-based PBX server for free, get hold of some handsets and softphone applications and start assessing their value. To assist you, we've included tables of VoIP handsets and server products, as well as a list of VoIP systems integrators to get you started. This list covers the majority of players in the VoIP market, and should help to give you a comparison of the various products out there.