Running a business is a bit like building a house. You do your best to build your business with a strong foundation to withstand whatever ups and downs you’ll face. However, if a vital piece of your business infrastructure fails it can threaten and undermine all your efforts, potentially collapsing like a house of cards.

Those who consider telecommunications and internet services as mere utilities and chose the cheapest deal will discover IT&T has a huge impact on your ability to run a business. It’s not like water and electricity – it’s a vital piece of architecture. Therefore, it’s essential that you chose the right telecoms and internet service provider (ISP) for your business needs.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when selecting the best telecommunications and internet services for your business:

Ask the right questions based on your business needs:

No two businesses are exactly the same so you must do your research based on your unique business needs. Finding the right telecommunications or ISP starts with asking the right questions.

Will the solution fit how you use your business internet? Do you upload or download large files in high volumes? Do you use cloud services? Is speed a mission-critical functionality? Do you have high volumes of web traffic, inbound and outbound calls, emails or live chat? Do you have an existing connected phone line or soft phone? Will your needs change in future?

Evaluating cost, data and speed versus business needs

When it comes to choosing the right internet service provider (ISP) there are more factors to consider than just cost and data speeds.

Many ISP’s place emphasis on the importance of download speeds, but businesses often forget to ask about upload speeds, something that can have a huge impact, particularly if you have a cloud-based telephony system (where you have information travelling in two directions) or you upload a lot of files as part of your business.

These questions will help you to know what sort of internet connection, amount of data and speed of internet your business will require to run smoothly and efficiently.

Telephony is no longer just answering the phone

When it comes to your telephone system, what do you need to think about? Should you consider a cloud-based telephony solution rather than a traditional PBX phone system? Do you need to be able to answer business calls when you’re on the move, or only when you’re in the office and connected to your computer? Do you need handsets? Are you looking to scale up your business any time in the future?  Do you want to record phone calls and integrate your system with your CRM? Answering these questions can help you drastically narrow down your search to find the telecommunications provider that is right for your business.

Scalability: Single-Tenant (Hosted) versus Multi-tenant systems

We regularly find ourselves assisting organisations who have already adopted a “hosted” phone system, one that, like Cloud, is off-premise and managed by a telecommunications provider.  However, hosted phone systems have limitations. They are typically single-tenant systems which have been adapted to house multiple tenants but were never originally designed for that purpose.  A little like a share house.  It might have enough bedrooms to house the tenants however the supporting infrastructure like kitchen, bathroom, cupboard space, off-street parking and laundry simply can’t keep pace with demand. You can’t easily expand a shared house, you effectively need to knock up another house next door.  The limitation in this strategy is that it quickly becomes very awkward if some of your company data infrastructure is in one house and the rest in the other.

If you are considering the possibility of expansion in the future, you may want to consider a phone system that is multi-tenanted – meaning that you can easily scale up your phone service as your business grows without giving it a second thought.

A single-tenant phone system, like a share house, might suit your business when you have just left home and are starting out. However, like most share houses it won’t take long before you grow out of it.

In this scenario, a multi-tenant system is like an ever-expanding apartment block. The building shares an overall structure however each tenant has its own secure space with metered utilities and does not need to compete with other tenants for critical services like bathrooms and kitchen resources etc.  The magic of a multi-tenant structure is there is no limit to the number of people you can house in your apartment as you grow because multi-tenancy has no upward limitation.  Thanks to elastic computing, multi-tenancy will stretch to accommodate as many people as chose to reside there.  A multi-tenant system allows you to expand your phone system without adding any additional infrastructure.

Ultimately, Internet and telecommunications is an investment in your ability to scale rather than a utility cost, so it’s about knowing the most suitable solution with the best return on investment for you. With the right solution you can build a solid technology foundation to withstand the ever-changing business environment.