19 September 2017

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SIP Trunking Providers: How to Find the Best for Your Business

Business Phone Service by Tom Collins

Understanding your options among Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) providers is every bit as confusing as you think. Much like with any other fast-growing technology, there’s a lack of standardization around voice-over-IP (VoIP) phone technologies. Understanding the pricing and quality differences between SIP vendors, and how it impacts the quality of customer experience, is almost always confusing to first-time adopters of SIP.

The term “SIP Trunking Provider” may mean very different things for two vendors in your geographic area. Some SIP providers offer their own facilities, equipment, and local experts; while others are in the business of reselling other companies technology. Every organization wants to maximize the value from their investment, and receive the service quality they’ve been promised after the ink dries on the contract. Fortunately, by knowing the right questions to ask, you can evaluate providers carefully and mitigate many risks of choosing the wrong SIP Trunking Provider for your needs.

The Best SIP Trunking Provider in Washington D.C.

Atlantech Online is a DC-based vendor who offers SIP trunking, IP-based telephony, fiber, and data center to organizations in the Mid-Atlantic and nationwide. While we’re not the most objective judge of our quality of service, real-life Atlantech customers say that we always go above and beyond to provide extra-mile service 24/7/365.

Atlantech was the first-ever provider to offer differentiated SIP service via the Equinix cloud exchange. This cutting-edge technology means that voice data packets are differentiated and prioritized in transit to eliminate the possibility of retransmission. In other words, your employees and clients will notice crystal-clear, reliable voice communications. With a managed, high-bandwidth fiber network, Atlantech also provides Internet connectivity, data center, colocation, and other tools for Washington D.C. businesses to unlock the benefits of Unified Communications as a Service.

Atlantech offers superior reliability and redundancy to customers. As a registered CLEC, the pricing for SIP, fiber, and bundled communications services is lower than average due to the best-of-class adoption of automation and our decades of experience. Transparency, easy to understand billing, and robust service level agreements are at the core of the Atlantech Online culture.

For in-depth customer reviews of Washington D.C. companies like Allied Telecom, Cogent, and XO Communications, check out The 5 Best Telecommunications Companies in the Washington, D.C., Area.

How to Evaluate a SIP Trunking Provider: 7 Questions to Ask

For organizations in Washington D.C. and other areas nationwide, evaluating SIP trunking providers carefully is crucial. Signing on with the lowest-cost provider could lead to cut-rate quality. Of even more concern, signing up for the costliest service available may not be a guarantee that you’ll receive the quality you need. By knowing the questions to ask to evaluate which SIP Trunking providers offer services direct from local facilities and which offer fewer direct quality guarantees, you can better understand your options.

1. Do You Have Your Own Facilities?

Select SIP Trunking providers offer their own facilities, which typically involve equipment such as session border controllers (SBC) and voice switch technology. Having physical facilities, especially when deployed in a redundant fashion, create a dedicated pathway for voice communications within the provider's facilities, lending their customers the benefits of cost-savings, reliability, and simpler management. Other SIP providers are reselling services that are located in a third-party’s facility which means they lose control of voice service quality and may be subject to price changes.

Not only are there advantages to selecting a SIP provider with their own facilities, but there are also advantages to selecting a provider with local facilities. SBCs within your geographic region offer the advantage of faster, local call routing, which translates into more reliable communications and superior voice quality. So, when you call the pizza shop next door, the call doesn't have to go through facilities in California or some other far away data center in another state.

2. Are You a Registered CLEC?

There are many types of SIP Trunking vendors in the U.S., but two important points of differentiation are registered CLECs versus non-registered organizations. Competitive Local Exchange Carriers are truly "phone companies", who have completed the process of purchasing facilities, services and file with the FCC in order to directly sell phone services to their customers.

Becoming a registered CLEC with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) isn’t a simple process, but it extends significant benefits to the SIP Trunking provider. These include the ability to purchase lines and services from ILEC at “peer” rates that are significantly lower than the costs paid by non-CLEC providers. These savings are passed onto customers. The FCC also regulates registered CLECs, which can ensure that their customers are doing business with a reputable organization.

Non-CLEC companies are effectively buying and selling services purchased from companies that are registered with the FCC. While your experiences can vary, signing up for SIP Trunking service with an unregistered provider can result in higher costs without reliability or quality guarantees. It may also mean less access to expert telecommunications providers, since the organization is effectively in the business of reselling technology.

3. Can You Do Least-Cost Call Routing?

Least-cost call routing, sometimes referred to as IP-LCR, is the process that occurs when a SIP trunking vendor interconnects client sites using a centralized system for IP-based call routing. This is accomplished via lines the provider owns, as opposed to lines they lease from other companies. Some smaller SIP Trunking vendors rely on leased lines for interconnectivity, which can result in cost savings for the vendor, but not the customer.

Least-cost call routing is a well-established form of managing SIP costs by more sophisticated providers. The costs and redundancy gains associated with this approach are significant--when one state government adopted least-cost in 2011, they saved $2 million each year on their SIP service.

4. Do You Have Built-In Redundancy?

Making the switch to SIP Trunking offers your organization voice calling advantages over plain old telephones (POTs) that are run over copper wires. However, it’s important to ensure that your vendor has reliability and redundancy built into their business model. Extreme attention-to-detail is costlier for SIP vendors, but it translates into very minimal downtime for their voice customers.

Voice calls are a critical component of your business. Leading SIP vendors offer redundancy with facilities that include:

  • Highly-redundant private IP networks: Multiple fiber-optic Internet pathways into the facilities can ensure that call routing is never interrupted.
  • SIP failover: Secondary software, power sources, and offsite backups in case of disaster.
  • Load balancing: The technical process of distributing workloads across multiple computers to ensure that resources are not overwhelmed, or that a single failed system doesn’t take down SIP client voice calls.
  • Auto-reroute: If one provider SIP trunk fails, it will automatically be “locked out,” with all client calls routed to available, operational equipment.

To look inside a business built around redundancy, check out Risk Management: 5 Ways We Manage Our Data Center Workloads.

5. Do You Have Your Own Pool of Phone Numbers?

Your organization may elect to purchase new direct inward dial (DID) numbers when you make the switch to SIP trunking. DID numbers are assigned, 10-digit telephone numbers that allow external users to dial a phone line directly.

Some major SIP trunking and traditional telecommunications providers have a “pool” of numbers that they own and assign for customers. As your organization adds new DID lines, some SIP trunking providers are able to assign you numbers from this pool to ensure consistency and similarity across your organization’s phone numbers. If your SIP trunking provider doesn’t have this pool, you could end up with phone numbers that share an area code, but don’t have any other similarities.

6. Do You Offer e911 Call Routing?

Enhanced 911, or e911, is the technical process used by emergency response personnel to locate a caller based on registered location data. Internet phone providers can register your location data with your local emergency services department to ensure that dispatchers can receive full data with caller identification and send police, fire, or medical to your location as quickly as possible.

FCC guidelines require VoIP and SIP providers to “manage their...business processes so users can complete wireless 911 calls consistent with FCC rules.” This includes providing 911 service as a core feature, collecting location data, making it easy for users to update their location, and educating customers on the limitations of e911 service.

While the federal guidelines are pretty clear on how SIP trunking providers are required to provide public safety access to their customers, not all SIP trunking providers are fully-compliant with these laws. Understanding your vendor's compliance status and policies for e911 is critically-important before you sign the contract--and especially before your organization needs to place an emergency call.

7. Can You Provide Customer References?

Evaluating potential SIP trunking providers to ensure they’re registered and a full phone company, as opposed to a new operation that’s reselling phone services at a massive markup, is important. However, asking for client references can further assist your organization in ensuring that not only does a provider have the redundancy and risk management you need, but that they also go above and beyond to help their clients succeed.

If possible, request references from clients in similar industries to your organization. For multi-site companies or organizations with unique telecommunication needs, communicating with clients who underwent a similarly complex SIP implementation can provide additional insight into provider quality.

Some example questions to ask a SIP provider’s client references include:

  • What role did the SIP Trunking provider play in your implementation?
  • How long have you been a client of this company?
  • Are there any times when the provider has gone above and beyond to meet your needs?

For a detailed guide to telecommunications vendor screening, we recommend Top 4 Pitfalls of Choosing the Wrong Unified Communications Provider.

Finding the Highest-Quality SIP Trunking Providers

Voice communications are mission-critical to your organization. You don’t want to experience service unavailability or quality drops during periods of peak demand, or experience long periods of outages due to inclement weather. By evaluating your SIP Trunking provider options to find a firm that offers local facilities, built-in redundancies and other advantages, you can ensure quality at the best price point possible.

Atlantech Online is committed to helping organizations in D.C., the Mid-Atlantic, and nationwide find the best SIP Trunking provider fit for their needs. To speak with one of our expert service advisors and receive a complimentary price quote today, click here.





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About the author:

Tom Collins (Twitter, LinkedIn) - is the Director of Enterprise Sales & Marketing for Atlantech Online. He has over 20 years of professional experience in the Internet Service Provider industry and is known for translating technology into positive results for business. A native of Washington, DC, a graduate from University of Maryland (degrees in Government & Politics and Secondary Education), Tom is also a five-time Ironman finisher.

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