How to Choose a Provider for SIP Trunks

Whether you’ve already made the transition to SIP trunking, or you’re evaluating options before you upgrade, you are faced with important decisions about the architecture of your phone system. The components you assemble to route, receive, and carry your communications, and how they’re configured, will determine the quality of your voice connection. Few individual elements impact call quality as much as your trunking service provider. The right, or wrong, provider will make all the difference to the success of your implementation. Here’s how to know you’ve made the right choice.

SIP carriers vs providers:

Technically speaking, every company that sells you trunking service is a provider. But not all providers are carriers. Certificated carriers have direct access to the resources of the telephone network. That means when you get phone numbers, you are getting them from the source, not a third or fourth party. The further you are removed from the source, the more points of failure you introduce into your call routes.

Carriers are also more stable. Providers that are aggregating carrier service pop in and out of existence all of the time. That’s not to say there aren’t reliable resellers on the market. And in given circumstances, a reseller might be the best option for your needs. But if you are considering a reseller, be sure they aren’t inserting unnecessary layers into your call routes, and ideally, choose a provider that is directly reselling carrier service.

Trunking that comes with the keys:

Without control of your trunking service, you’re essentially a passenger in the vehicle that is your voice communications. Not all Business providers deliver control of your account. And if they don’t, you might end up waiting on your provider when you need to immediately react to changing communication needs.

There are two ways providers can give you control of your voice communications.

The first is on the account level. Pay attention to the features and services you can control through your account management interface, and find out how quickly your changes will take effect. Crucial services you should expect to command include: phone numbers (adding, porting, dropping), routing, fraud controls, E911 and special services.

You can also control your voice communications in real-time using the signaling information provided by your carrier. Some carriers provide more signaling data than others. Some charge for using the data. Some provide no data. More data provided allows you to improve routing logic, implement more detailed usage tracking, and realize advanced PBX features such as Find Me/Follow Me.

Trunking you can lock up tight:

Security is one of the biggest issues facing businesses today. As we move entire networks onto the cloud, the challenge to secure every component becomes a race against ever vigilant fraudsters.

The security of your voice service is highly dependent on the security of your network. If attackers penetrate your firewall, they will have access to everything. But some carriers offer a second line of defense at the account level. Tools like outbound rate limits, destination white-listing, and the ability to disable SIP credentials for outbound calling in favor of IP authentication, help block activity different from your typical patterns. This makes it difficult for fraudsters to use these accounts, even if they do gain access.

The Internet is full of horror stories about businesses that fell victim to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of toll-fraud. In fact, we recently responded to such an article in the New York Times by outlining ways businesses can embrace VoIP with confidence, and also pointing out how the major telecom companies are actually supporting toll-fraud.

Reliable support:

Regardless of your level of your telecom expertise, the complexity of communications systems will at some point require you to reach out for troubleshooting assistance. When that time comes, you’ll need a carrier that offers knowledgeable support that’s highly available.

Email support is an important avenue that allows you to document progress, but phone support is crucial when you need a resolution during business hours. Purchasers I’ve talked to recommend trying service before committing, and while you’re trialing service, take their support for a test run too.

One of the important factors often overlooked when considering any service is the breadth of their product offering. Carriers spread thin across overly expansive product lineups, are less likely to provide deeply skilled support engineers with the specific product expertise you require. I think we’ve all experience this frustration when interacting with an outsourced support center with poorly trained representatives.

The more you know:

Research is an important part of every decision making process. When it comes to selecting a SIP provider, there are many factors beyond the major buckets I’ve discussed here. In the course of our business, we’ve met many telecom experts who have developed specific criteria for choosing a provider based on both good and bad experiences. To learn more about those experiences, and the professional tips they can teach you, download our eBook on How to Choose a Provider.

About the author  ⁄ Jeff MacKay

Jeff MacKay is the Communications Director at Flowroute Inc. With over a decade of experience in enterprise technology sales and business communications strategy, he is focused on helping organizations find the right connection for their needs. And he plays the bagpipes.

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